The International Honey Commission Discuss the Authenticity of Honey

The International Honey Commission Discuss the Authenticity of Honey

James Fearnley, CEO of BeeVital, tells us about his recent attendance at the International Honey Commission (IHC) Conference. James and his colleagues discussed the authenticity of honey. The International Honey Commission meeting was held between 22 -25 April in Cluj-Napoca, in Romania.  

IHC Scientists from around the world came together after a five-year break. By far the most important topic under discussion was the authenticity of honey. It is a big problem. Ten years ago, for example, all honey products from China were banned from coming into the European Union. China’s production of bee products is far in excess of all other countries. But some Chinese producers were routinely extracting nectar from the beehive i.e. the raw material of honey before it has matured inside the honeycomb and become real honey.  On top of this, some Chinese producers were mixing sugar syrup with honey and selling it on as genuine honey. In a market dominated by price the big buyers and packers were turning and are still turning a blind eye to these practices. But China was not and is not the only country working in this way.  The International Standards Organization ISO have been working on this problem for many years now - how to define honey in such a way that it defeats the fraudsters. The problem is that the more sophisticated the analytical techniques get for catching out the fraudsters the more sophisticated the fraudsters become.

We saw at the conference that the science available for testing the quality of honey and other bee products like  Propolis and Royal Jelly  has moved on considerably. At the Agricultural and Veterinary University of Cluj-Napoca USAVM we watched, for example, how AI driven microscopy could detect the number and type of pollen granules in a sample of honey and in doing so tell you where the pollen granules, and therefore where the honey, came from and whether it was authentic. One thing everyone was agreed on is that there is no such thing as vegan honey. There can be no honey without the honeybee.

The IHC is an unusual organisation. It has been in existence for about 20 years and was the brainchild of Stefan Bogdanof, a scientist concerned about the increasing problem of fake honey in particular, but of bee products in general. Whilst not legally recognised by global  regulatory agencies, this body of scientists now carry a lot of weight in helping to define workable standards.  You can see the programme of the IHC meeting in Cluj at

The IHC is unusual in other ways too. This international group of scientists have over time become a genuine global community, and their meeting was not just about science but about friendship and collaboration.

The smiling faces at the end of the conference testify to the spirit and warmth of the event. The picture on the screen behind this group  is of one of the earliest gatherings of the IHC  with many of the early pioneers going strong.

The IHC elected a new president as well as leaders of the many working groups. Professor Dražen Lušić (he is the man on the right of the picture below) is from the University of Ryeka in Croatia, where it was decided the next  meeting of the International Honey Commission will be held.

The final day of the conference involved a visit to a honey and pollen producer and then on to one of Romania’s most historically important sites, the Alba Carolina Citadel, which is an incredible star shaped fortress built for Charles VI (known as Carol VI in Romania) one of the last Holy Roman Emperors.

Thank you to all the organisers of the IHC  conference and particular to Dr Otiliia Bobis for an excellent and important conference in the beautiful city of  Cluj- Napoca.

The food was good too!

James Fearnley CEO of BeeVital

Cover Photo of honey by Art Rachen on Unsplash - thank you!

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