QC of Honey with HILIC & HPLC Systems

Honey is a popular commodity around the world, reflected by the booming global business of beekeeping. The so-called apiculture market is valued at roughly $8.81 billion USD, almost a third of which ($3.21 billion USD) is attributed to the European market. As much as 90.6% of this worldwide market is dominated by the honey industry.

Commercial honey consumption has grown significantly in recent decades as discerning consumers look for natural alternatives to sugars and sweeteners. There is also a growing niche of individuals reporting significant health benefits from adding honey into their diets. Alongside food consumption, honey is increasingly utilized as an ingredient in various organic personal-care products. Yet this abrupt and significant uptick in demand has coincided with a sharp decline in honey-producing bee colonies, which continues to affect supply. In-keeping with basic laws of economics, this supply-demand issue has contributed to a continuous increase in the price of honey: the worldwide average price for honey has now risen to $4.69 per pound .
The buzz of honey represents a unique challenge from a quality assurance and control (QA/QC) perspective. To support the impressive growth trajectory of honey, the use of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) has proven essential and especially hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) methods are applied.

Applications of HILIC & HPLC Systems in Honey QC

Firstly: the decline of bee populations is widely attributed to pesticide-related colony collapse. Systemic pesticides used to protect crops by controlling the populations of harmful insects are transported through the entire plant system, including the pollen and nectar. Neonicotinoids are a particularly concerning group of pesticides that target insectoid central nervous systems, causing paralysis and contributing to increased mortality rates. 
In 2018, the European Commission banned three neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam) for outdoor use due to controversial findings linking the chemicals to widespread colony collapse disorder. This followed the release of a global survey that found neonicotinoids in 75% of honey samples taken from every continent . HPLC systems have proven instrumental in the ongoing conversation surrounding pesticide regulation to protect agricultural ecosystems. Reversed-phase HPLC systems coupled to a sample preparation module operating according to the quechers (quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, and safe) method are ideal for QC processes for intensively farmed commodities like honey. These methods can reliably outperform solid-phase extraction for detecting pesticides in food goods, ensuring rapid and cost-effective monitoring according to regulatory standards.

The second concern of honey QC (which standard HPLC systems are less prepared to screen for) is the prevalence of fake honey, and the confusion surrounding it. Reports suggesting that as much as 76% of retail honey was “fake” were based on research that claimed most supermarket honeys contained no pollen. HPLC systems can be used to screen for pollen in honey, but that is not an ideal indicator of a genuine product. In fact, experts now refute claims that a lack of pollen is indicative of poor quality as it is often removed during essential filtration and purification processes that remove contaminants like dust .

A better measure of screening genuine honey from substitute products is HILIC separation with refractive index (RI) detection. Unlike standard HPLC methods, HILIC uses hydrophilic stationary phases with reversed-phase type eluents and is there with applicable to characterize honey according to its characteristic sugar composition. For example: natural bee honey consists of approximately 39% fructose and 34% glucose, with small amounts of sucrose and maltose. HPLC systems operating in the HILIC mode can analyze honey products via isocratic separation and RI detection to measure the sugar composition of the sample. This offers quantitative insights into both the origin and quality of the product to ensure only the best quality goods are released to the market.

HPLC Systems from KNAUER

KNAUER is one of the world’s leading suppliers  of HPLC systems for food analysis and QC processes. We have developed HPLC systems and studies suitable for screening honey for both pesticides and substitute ingredients, to ensure that discerning consumers are receiving a quality product that reflects the prices they are paying.
If you would like any more information about our HPLC systems for determination of sugars in honey or the determination of neonicotinoid insecticides in honey, simply contact a member of the KNAUER team today. 


[1] https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-global-honey-industry-set-to-expand-at-a-compound-annual-growth-rate-of-2-6/

[2] https://www.wsj.com/articles/youll-need-a-lot-more-money-to-buy-that-jar-of-honey-11558526402

[3] https://www.sciencenews.org/article/much-worlds-honey-now-contains-pesticides-harm-bees

[4] https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2011/11/25/142659547/relax-folks-it-really-is-honey-after-all?t=1564146243317

HPLC system for sugar analysis

Carbohydrates, alcohols, and organic acids are important in the manufacture of many foods, pharmaceuticals and biofuels. This HPLC system is specially designed to separate and analyze these compounds. The heart of this system is the superior AZURA refractive index detector RID 2.1L with an outstanding linear range and sensitivity. More systems components are the column thermostat CT 2.1 and the isocratic AZURA pump P 6.1L for delivery of small flow rates (0.001 -10 ml/min) and pressure up to 700 bar. This price attractive system is developed to run simple and rapid methods that enable simultaneous determination of sugars, organic acids and alcohols. 

More HPLC food analysis 

We separate molecules and unite people.

Based in Berlin, KNAUER has been serving the sciences since 1962. We develop and manufacture scientific instruments of superior quality for liquid chromatography systems and components, including:

Analytical HPLC / UHPLC
Preparative HPLC
Fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC)
Multi-Column Chromatography / SMB

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