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close this bookFOOD CHAIN No. 14 - March 1995 (ITDG, 1995, 16 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGreetings
View the documentA mouldy old business spawns some money
View the documentTraining for the Tropics
View the documentTomato concentrate - further developments from India
View the documentSafety of street foods in Calcutta
View the documentQuality of honey for export
View the documentImproving standards of hygiene
View the documentBook Lines
View the documentQuality control and quality assurance
View the documentGhee - adding value to milk
View the documentAcknowledgments

Quality of honey for export

Honey is a concentrated solution of sugars, mainly fructose and glucose (often known as invert or reducing sugars) together with small amounts of acids (volatile compounds that give its characteristic odour), vitamins and pollen. Perhaps the most important definition of honey is that it is a natural food made from nectar as taken from the flowers by bees. The nectar as taken from flowers is a dilute solution of sugars. The bees ripen and concentrate this to a level that stops it fermenting. In other words, it becomes stable and has a long shelf life. During this process the sugars are modified to give the typical sugar profile of honey.

Honey is damaged by heat so the golden rule for exporters is to avoid storage under conditions of high temperature. Keep it cool and fresh, and export as quickly as possible The standard export packaging is in 300kg drums that are either internally lacquered with a food-grade material or coated with beeswax. The drums should be completely filled to exclude air, which can react with the honey and cause oxidation. The drums must be well sealed to exclude moisture.

Each drum should be clearly labelled with the name and address of the exporter, the net weight and any other information requested by the buyer such as date of packing. Transport times should be kept to a minimum, remembering that warehouses at ports are often very damp and hot.


Low levels of reducing sugars indicate probable adulteration with sugar.

Space does not permit the inclusion of detailed testing procedures but any readers requiring information can write to the Technical Enquiry Unit at ITDG.

Honey requires little processing other than melting, blending (to give a standard flavour), and, if required granulation before bottling. Semi-solid honeys are said to be granulated and all honey has a tendency to crystallize. Much work has been done to control this process.

The usual way to make granulated honey is to add about 10 per cent of granulated material to the liquid honey and blend well before bottling. The 'starter acts as a 'seed, and the bottled material sets quickly.

Until recently the quality of honey relied to a great extent on the art of the producer in storing and blending the product. The increasing burden of legislation and the requirement of 'due diligence' means that the importer is under increasing pressure. (The importer/seller has to be able to demonstrate that all due diligence has been taken to make sure that the supplier has adequate quality assurance systems in place.) This pressure will be passed back to the exporter through, for example, specifications that ale more strict than those that apply to the product after it is bottled. A typical UK importers specification is shown in Table 2.

Prices vary considerably as shown in Table 3 which clearly shows that certain consumers will pay high prices for high quality types of honey

Table 2: Typical UK importers specification

Specifications for pure bees honey are to be as per UK/EEC regulations apart from the following requirements

Moisture = Max 19%
Hydroxy methyl = Max 20 ppm furfuraldehyde
Diastase = Min 15
Apparent reducing = Min 65% sugar content
Apparent sucrose = Max 5% content
Water insoluble = Max 0. 1% solids content
Ash content = Max 0.6%
Acidity = Max 40 milk-equivalent acid per 1000gms
Flavour/smell = Typical blossom honey flavour, free from off taints, or untypical strong flavour
Packing = Large drums of 285-300 kg net, wax or epoxy-resin lined (suitable for carriage of foodstuffs)
Trace elements = Guaranteed to be within EEC regulations on mineral contents and free from pesticide or antibiotic presence.

Honey to be pure and unadulterated as defined by carbon-isotope examinations (White and Doner 1978, White and Winters 1989, and others)

Table 3: Price variations between types of honey

Brand/product type Price £ per kg


Supermarket own brand


Product of more than one country

Gales pure honey


Product of more than one country

Tropical forest organic


Certified organic honey from Africa

Rowse Greek Mountain honey


A dark mountainous honey where bees forage on thyme, wild rose and pine

Scottish heather honey


A darkish honey, from Scotland

Summary of an article first published in The Network, TWIN Ltd, 5-11 Worship Street, London

Adding value to honey

By secondary processing it may be possible to add considerable value to honey and its by-products, as the final products sell for much more than the ingredients.

These formulations are taken from an article produced in Beekeeping and Development and were originally developed by Elaine White. Her book Super Formulas should be essential reading for those interested in this subject.


This is popular in many countries and is easy to make.

1 oz of beeswax

One half cup of baby oil

The beeswax is slowly melted in a double boiling pan. When liquid, stir in the baby oil. Pour into attractive containers.


One tablespoon of shredded beeswax

One tablespoon of petroleum jelly

One teaspoon of honey

One tablespoon of lanolin

A few drops of aromatic essential oil (peppermint, eucalyptus, wintergreen or camphor).

Melt the wax, lanolin and petroleum jelly in a double boiler. Add the honey and essential oil. Stir the mixture till cool.


Many cheeses are externally waxed to prevent them drying and and to retard mould growth

13.5oz beeswax

2.5oz vegetable shortening

Heat ingredients together in an oven at 240°F checking the temperature with a thermometer.

Hold or weight down the cheese under the hot wax for 10 minutes; this kills most surface micro-organisms

Remove the cheese and allow the wax to cool to 160°F.

The cheese is then repeatedly briefly dipped in the wax until it is covered with a wax layer about 1/16 of an inch in thickness.