The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Friday handed over to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) a sample of the fructose adulterant, which can beat existing quality and safety tests, used by leading brands and other documents that were part of its investigation into honey adulteration.
The FSSAI had sought samples and other evidence. The CSE shared the sample of fructose syrup, which is called “all-pass” in the market procured from a company in Jaspur. It also provided full correspondence with two Chinese companies from which CSE procured adulterant samples along with details of the consignment of adulterant sent by a company in China that CSE could not eventually receive because it did not have necessary permits.
On Wednesday, CSE made public the findings of its investigation into honey adulteration. The probe found that 77% of samples from 13 top honey brands were adulterated with a modified sugar syrup to beat safety tests. CSE found that some Chinese companies developed a syrup containing fructose, or fruit sugar, that can go undetected in Indian tests for the purity of honey.
A CSE statement said its representatives met FSSAI officials including chairperson Rita Teotia and CEO Arun Singhal. It added the authority has assured that they will send the adulterant sample for further testing and will also follow up on all the contacts and details CSE has provided to unravel the adulteration nexus. Based on its review, FSSAI has said it will take the necessary steps to amend the food standards and step-up surveillance.
FSSAI on Thursday responded to the expose and said CSE found the adulterants by using the non-prescription Trace Marker for Rice (TMR) syrup test instead of a more sensitive Specific Marker for Rice (SMR) syrup test. “It is not clear as to why some tests like SMR have not been conducted on the samples spiked with adulterants by CSE. FSSAI has requested details of the samples and the tests conducted from CSE. As soon as details become available, they will be analysed by FSSAI to draw conclusions about the protocols followed and suggest any improvements that are required in the test methodology for future,” FSSAI said in a statement on Thursday.
On Friday, FSSAI representatives inquired why CSE had not asked for SMR in the samples deliberately spiked by CSE to expose adulteration. CSE sent the spiked samples to National Dairy Development Board laboratory in Gujarat for testing.
FSSAI officials said SMR was required to detect adulteration by rice syrup. CSE has explained that this was not the globally understood laboratory test practice.
CSE has stressed that the ring of adulteration needed to be firmly dealt with and that FSSAI must take urgent steps to stop or break the nexus. “Our research has clearly established that samples adulterated even up to 50% can bypass our testing for C3 and C4 sugar [(cane or high fructose corn syrup],” said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE.
“We will send samples for further investigations,” said an FSSAI spokesperson.