–  Journal  –
How To Check If Honey Is Pure?

Presence of C3 & C4 Sugar Adulterants in Honey


Natural honey is a liquid produced by honey bees using plant nectar. It is loved by people worldwide for its sweetness and depth of flavour; and is used in numerous foods and recipes. Honey comes in countless aromas, colours, and tastes, all because of the difference in the nectar from which it is made. In addition, it offers numerous health benefits and plays a crucial role in alternative medicine treatments and home remedies.


On the other side, natural honey is produced in natural ways by the bees using the nectar of the flower with the added benefits of their enzyme. It contains natural sugar like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. But honey adulteration has become a common problem these days. It is done using cheap sugar syrup made from C3 and C4 sugar plants. As this syrup contains processed sugar, these cause harmful effects on the health. Adding sugar cane syrup or corn syrup to pure honey has become a global issue.


Honey is regarded as being honey when (among other things) it is made only from nectar or honeydew collected by bees from plants. However, it is now common internationally for various types of sugar syrups to be used as a way of making ‘honey’ – either by feeding them to bees, adding them in to honey, or creating artificial ‘honey’ using the syrups as a main ingredient.


In response to this, there is been a huge international requirement for testing of honey to show that it has not been adulterated with sugar. Several laboratories worldwide are trying to monitor this adulteration utilizing unique, insightful strategies to decide honey’s purity of adulteration. To analyse this, chromatography and other analytical procedures were carried out. However, these procedures were not sensitive enough to detect the low concentration of adultering sugars.


What are C3 and C4 Sugar Plants?


Sugar produced from tropical plants like sugar cane and corn are produced using a photosynthetic pathway referred to as the C4 pathway. Nectar which is collected by bees come from plants that use a different process of photosynthesis, referred to as the C3 pathway. There is a measurable difference in the ratio of the naturally occurring carbon-12 and carbon-13 isotopes in sugar arising from the C3 and C4 pathways, and this test uses difference to identify whether C4 sugar appears to have been added to the honey.


Sugar syrup
made from C3 sugar plants

Invert sugar
made from C4 sugar

Rice, Wheat,
Sugar Beet

Sugar Cane,


Honey bee collect nectar from the flowers of C3 plants cycle and to a lesser extent from the flowers of C4 plants. C4 plants are plants such as sugar cane plants, and if bees collect nectar from them, that does not mean that the honey is adulterated. C3 and C4 are direct adulterants, meaning they are added directly to the honey to increase its quantity. Whereas natural honey comes from honeybees, they make it from the nectar of different plant flowers and mix them with their natural enzymes to produce honey.


Which Analytical Test Are Done to Determine C3 and C4 Sugar Types Content in Honey?


The Carbon Isotope test identifies adulteration from C4 sugar plants. This test estimates the proportion of typically forming carbon-12 and carbon-13 isotopes found in sugar from C4 sugar plants.


Natural honey in the Carbon Isotope test shouldn’t contain C4 plant sugar over 7%. Provided that this is true, then, at that point, the honey is adulterated with inverted sugar.


One can genuinely get a high C4 sugar result in honey due to sugar syrup residues arising from hive feeding practices. For example, it is quite common to see C4 sugar results above 7% in early season extracted from hives that have been used for pollination. This is likely to be a result of feeding sugar supplements to strengthen the hives leading up to and during pollination.


BubbaBee’s Commitment to Produce Natural Raw Honey


The most common question we face when it comes to honey is; Is this real honey?


Some time this common question even leads to testing honey’s purity at home by word of mouth or “Google”.


The truth is, to test honey’s purity, it has to be tested in a lab by professional bodies. We sent our honey sample to SGS Austria through SGS Malaysia (it is more common to do honey lab test in the Europe and New Zealand than in Malaysia, given that these countries are mass producing honey). Following below is the extract of page 2 of Certificate of Analysis (click here to view) by SGS Austria:





The Netflix documentary series “Rotten” includes an episode on adulterated honey in the USA, which may be of interest to those who have not seen it before. https://www.netflix.com/my-en/title/80146284 (Season 1: Lawyers, Guns & Honey)