TESCO’S own-brand honey has been mixed with cheap syrup made from sugar, according to research.
The alarm has been raised by trading standards officers who commissioned tests on a Tesco set honey from a laboratory.
The findings have sparked fears that the issue may be widespread in UK supermarkets and led to calls for the honey to be pulled from shelves, reports The Times.
The National Food Crime Unit, which was set up after horsemeat was found in beef meals in 2013, is now looking into the reports.
Tesco told The Sun its honey is 100 per cent pure and added that it carries out regular tests to ensure it meets the required standards.
But manufacturers can easily turn sugars into syrup and add the flavours and colours to pass it off as honey.
It’s legal to sell honey mixed with other things, but these need to be labelled so customers know what they’re paying for.
According to the Honey Regulations 2015, honey can’t be called just that if other food ingredients have been added.
Chris Elliott, who led the investigation into the horsemeat scandal, is now calling on Tesco to “act fast and take the honey off the shelves” if there are any doubts about its authenticity.
Richmond Council, which ordered the research, hasn’t yet told The Sun which Tesco honey it was, but the prices start from £1.35 for a 454g jar of its set honey.
A spokeswoman for the council told The Times the findings “indicate a more widespread issue” and that they have implications for all supermarkets.
The Food Standards Agency, which oversees the food crime unit, confirmed it’s “aware of these reports and are looking into them”.
The research comes after the FSA warned supermarkets and retailers about so-called adulteration of honey after tests found that many brands may be mixed.
Honey is more expensive than sugar, and the UK also imports 90 per cent of the 24,000 tonnes of honey sold every year leading to bigger risks for fakes.
Analysts have started using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to spot the fakes, which was the technique used on the Tesco honey.
Mr Elliott, professor of food safety at Queen’s University in Belfast, said honey adulteration had become highly sophisticated.
“Honey is one of the most adulterated types of food.
“NMR is a reliable technique and there is a big push to introduce it as a standard testing procedure globally.
“Tesco had big problems over horsemeat and if there are doubts over honey it should act fast and take it off the shelves.”
A Tesco Spokesperson told The Sun: “Tesco brand honey is 100 per cent pure, natural and can be directly traced back to the beekeeper.
“We carry out regular tests to ensure our honey meets this standard and is fully compliant with all legal requirements.
“We have not been made aware of any investigation by the Food Standards Agency’s National Food Crime Unit and we understand that the Local Authority is also not conducting any investigation.”
The supermarket added that it was concerned about the methodology used, and said that the result of NMR alone isn’t enough for enforcement action.
Last year, Wetherspoon’s steak supplier was at the centre of “one of the biggest food scandals since horsemeat”.
Ministers have also been accused of leaving the nation “at risk” of a similar scandal after announcing 20 per cent cuts to food inspectors.
In 2016, cash-strapped food safety watchdogs ruled that supermarkets would be allowed to police themselves.