Project snapshot: Increasing the value of Australian honey as a health food
Honey has a long history of use to treat digestive ailments and research suggests honey acts as a prebiotic food that favourably changes the balance...
Published: 20 Jun 2023
Author(s): Jamie Ayton, Leanne Groves
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In 2021, the Size and scope of the Australian honey bee and pollination industry – a snapshot report found Australia had 1,800 highly skilled commercial beekeepers producing approximately 37,000 tonnes of honey. Honey in Australia is produced from a wide range of native and non-native floral sources, but our most well-known honeys come from ecological communities containing one or more of the 900 eucalypt species found in Australia. While Australian honey is only a small portion of the international market, our honey is well-known, and we must ensure the integrity of that honey is maintained.
To achieve this, the composition of Australian honey must be understood. This project analysed 288 honey samples from across Australia and across several ecological communities. Samples were tested for pH, free acidity, diastase activity, 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), electrical conductivity, water insoluble solids content, and sugar content. Other information gathered included the location where the honey was collected, the main floral resources at the collection site, and the treatment and storage of the honey prior to sampling. This information was used to develop a database of the basic composition of Australian honey based on internationally recognised regulations, and to investigate whether there were any common trends within regions.
The research found Australian honey is very diverse and tends to remain within industry standards, other than for electrical conductivity and water insoluble impurities. This was explained by most samples analysed being raw, unfiltered honey. These results are the first step towards characterising Australian honey and the future development of an Australian standard for honey. More samples will be required to fully characterise Australian honey to meet the needs of consumers, who increasingly are demanding detailed information about food products, including honey.
The characterisation of Australian honey through analysing its composition is also the start of a journey to understand and identify adulteration of honey. While significant additional research is required to pinpoint adulteration, this work will provide an important foundation for future research in this area.