The largest honey company in Australia faces allegations it and supermarket chains sold fake honey in blends

Chinese whispers: Staff and operations manager Michael Notley of Capilano Honey outside the Maryborough plant. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
Chinese whispers: Staff and operations manager Michael Notley of Capilano Honey outside the Maryborough plant. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Allegations that Capilano Honey has used adulterated foreign honey in its products are being denied by the company’s management.

The allegations, published in Fairfax Media and the ABC, accuse Capilano, Coles, Woolworths, IGA and ALDI of selling blended honeys that contain sugar, rice and beet syrups.

Tests conducted by the German company Quality Services International (QSI) using nuclear magnetic resolution (NMR) found 12 out of 28 samples of honey from eight Allowrie (a Capilano brand) samples, IGA’s Black and Gold private label and ALDI’s Bramwell’s private label brand were adulterated.

Using the standard C4 sugar test, an industry standard in Australia, all the samples passed as honey.

Capilano Honey issued a statement calling into question the accuracy and application of the NMR test in Australia.

“By their own admission, European laboratories using NMR have limited profiles of Australian honey in which to judge the authenticity of Australian honey,” Capilano wrote in its statement.

“Australia has the richest floral diversity of honey in the world, a strong statistically valid database for our region is fundamental to ensuring the validity of any NMR analysis, and we believe it does not exist at present.”

Capilano’s Victorian base is at Maryborough, 60km north of Ballarat.

The Courier went to the plant in August as part of a wider story on apiculture and the beekeeping industry in the region.

The company’s specialist brands and premium glass are packaged at Maryborough, and the plant has expanded both its output and its staffing in recent times.

The Courier spoke to Capilano managing director Ben McKee requesting a statement on the issue of adulteration as it directly pertains to the Maryborough site. 

Capilano responded by saying that:

All of our Capilano branded honey packed at our Maryborough site is 100 per cent pure Australian honey, as it is at all our other sites.  We do however pack some Allowrie-branded products in Maryborough. 

There is no suggestion that Capilano’s own brands, which are labelled 100 per cent pure Australian honey, have been adulterated in any way.

Central Victorian Apiarists Association secretary Judy Leggett says the whole issue is distressing for the beekeeping community.

She says the importation of honey is something, while they may not like it, beekeepers understand is necessary, especially in drought.

“Capilano are not the only company importing honey,” Ms Leggett said.

“There are a lot of companies doing that. What is important is to have vigorous and up-to-date testing.”