Profiling the Unique Chemical Composition of NSW Honey
Honey is a complex mix of sugars, peptides, phenolics, flavonoids and other compounds. These are derived directly from plant nectar and other secretions or formed within the honey as it matures and ages. This complexity can be used to provide a unique “fingerprint” for different honey types based on a set of chemical assays. The fingerprint can be used to trace honey and determine provenance. It can also be used to identify adulterated and fraudulent honey samples.
The CRC for Honey Bee Products, located in WA, has been tasked with producing a library of Australian honeys with associated chemical data for submission to international databanks. However, this library is focused on WA and Tasmania samples and NSW is represented by very few samples. As NSW is particularly rich in biodiversity and contains multiple sub-biogeographical areas with both overlapping and distinct floral species, NSW honey samples can have distinctly different chemistries. This needs to be understood for traceability and product assurance.
Australia has a unique flora and Australian honeys have very different chemical profiles to American, Asian and European honeys. In 2018, a major scandal broke over what appeared to be wide-scale adulteration and mis-labelling of Australian honey. In fact, this was caused by a lack of Australian honey samples in the reference library database, which was unable to map the tested samples to verified pure honeys. The claim proved incorrect and was retracted, but not before it had caused substantial and lasting damage to the reputation of the Australian honey industry, with flow-on effects on honey prices and beekeeper income.
Some members of the team at CRCHBP. CREDIT:CRCHBP WEBSITE
Production of unique chemical fingerprints to enable rapid identification and protect NSW honeys from fraud, safeguarding the NSW honey market.
Prevention of false positives suggesting adulteration that could result in harmful publicity for NSW honey and loss of value and markets.
Establishment of a honey library to capture the NSW honey profile and protect it into the future.
This work will be coordinated by the Honey CRC in Western Australia and will be undertaken in NSW at the Wagga Wagga DPI laboratories (analytical chemistry) and at the National Measurement Institute in Sydney (NMR).
Collection of NSW honey samples from identified sub-biogeographical areas.
Analytical chemistry testing of honey samples to determine water content, sugar content, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), free acidity, insoluble solids, diastase activity and electrical conductivity.
Chemical profiling of honey samples using near-infrared analysis, High-Performance Thin-Layer Chromatography (HPTLC) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR).
Establishment of unique chemical profile of Australian/NSW honeys and submission of these to Australian and international honey databases for integrity and verification purposes
Specific chemical fingerprints of NSW honey from diverse sub-biogeographic regions
Inclusion of a minimum of 100 NSW honey samples submitted to the Australian and international honey library databases.
Robust honey library databases nationally and internationally
Creation and incorporation of a NSW honey library into national and international databases is a critical insurance measure to protect beekeepers and the honey industry in the medium to long term.