Everyone knows what honey is. Right? It’s that sweet stuff that bees make. If you get it straight from a beehive, you know it’s the real stuff. If you buy it in a jar… how do you know for sure?
Like most of nature’s bounty, honey is a complex mixture resulting from a complicated process. The bees gather nectar from many plants, in various regions, over different climates. The product we lump under one name, “honey”, is in many ways just as variable. Which means that it’s hard to define in detail exactly what true honey should look like.
Since honey is expensive, there is a strong financial incentive among some to increase profit margins by stretching honey with cheaper syrups. If corn syrup is used, the only way to detect it with certainty is by looking at the isotopic ratio of its carbon. While the sugars in HFCS are very similar to those in honey, the isotope ratio of corn is very different from that of nectars and a blend will exhibit an intermediate value.
An inexpensive carbon SIRA analysis can quickly tell you if a honey has been grossly adulterated while a complete examination can give a more quantitative estimate of the C4 addition. When the complete AOAC method is not required, a customer may wish to use the initial SIRA test as a screening tool to alert them to possible problem products which then could be subjected to closer scrutiny.