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Xagoraris, M.; Revelou, P.; Alissandrakis, E.; Tarantilis, P.; Pappas, C. Greek Honey Authentication: Botanical Approach. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 30 May 2024).
Xagoraris M, Revelou P, Alissandrakis E, Tarantilis P, Pappas C. Greek Honey Authentication: Botanical Approach. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed May 30, 2024.
Xagoraris, Marinos, Panagiota-Kyriaki Revelou, Eleftherios Alissandrakis, Petros Tarantilis, Christos Pappas. "Greek Honey Authentication: Botanical Approach" Encyclopedia, (accessed May 30, 2024).
Xagoraris, M., Revelou, P., Alissandrakis, E., Tarantilis, P., & Pappas, C. (2021, December 21). Greek Honey Authentication: Botanical Approach. In Encyclopedia.
Xagoraris, Marinos, et al. "Greek Honey Authentication: Botanical Approach." Encyclopedia. Web. 21 December, 2021.
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Greek Honey Authentication: Botanical Approach

Honey is a functional, honeybee product with a useful role in human nutrition and several health benefits. Greece is a Mediterranean region with several types of monofloral honey. Today, Greek honey has acquired an important position in national and international markets. Due to this increased industrialization and globalization, quality control is a necessity. Mislabeling constitutes one of the most notable types of fraudulence, while most consumers are looking for authentic honey. Moreover, producers and suppliers are searching for rapid and analytical methodologies to secure Greek honey in a competitive environment. In this entry, the classical (melissopalynological, physicochemical) and analytical (chromatographic, spectrometric, and spectroscopic) methods for the standardization of the botanical origin of Greek honey will be described. 

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Honeybees are an important group of insect pollinators; while they produce various bee products, honey is the most well-known. Since ancient times, honey constitutes the only sweetening product that can be stored and used exactly as produced in nature, a fact that makes it very important in terms of its authenticity. Practically, all types of honey are authentic and only human activity can affect them.
From a legal viewpoint, the European council directive (2001/110/EC) [1] defines honey as, “the natural sweet substance produced by Apis mellifera L. bees from the nectar of plants of from secretions of living parts of plants or excretions of plant-sucking insects on the living parts of plants, which the bees collect transform by combining with specific substances of their own, deposit, dehydrate, store and leave in honeycombs to ripen and mature”. Additionally, composition criteria including physicochemical characteristics according to main types of origin (blossom or honeydew), production, and/or presentation (comb, chunk, drained, extracted, pressed, filtered, and baker’s honey).
According to the literature during 1963–2017, in countries around the Mediterranean Basin, a total of 336 species of wild bees and honeybees and 54 beekeeping plants families were approximately estimated [2]. Greece is mainly inhabited by four common Apis mellifera L. subspecies namely A.m. cecropia in central and southern Greek mainland, A.m. carnica in Ionian Islands, A.m. adami in Crete and southern Aegean, and A.m. macedonica in Macedonia, Thrace, and parts of Thessaly and Epirus (Figure 1) [3].
Figure 1. Four common Apis mellifera L. subspecies in the Greek region.
Beekeeping plants provide nectar, honeydew, and/or pollen to honeybees. “Blossom honey” is produced from flower nectar, while “honeydew honey” is from honeydew secretions from insects parasitizing the plants; various mixtures are also produced. The period when a plant provides food is called the “flowering period”. Greece has a wide variety of indigenous and nonindigenous melliferous plants. The most common botanical species producing monofloral honeys in Greece are included in Table 1. Greek legislation has set more strict criteria (Table 2) compared to the European legislation regarding the eight most common monofloral honeys [4].
Table 1. Melliferous species and honeys in Greek region.
Scientific Name Flowering Period Nectar Pollen Honeydew Honey Name Commercially Widespread
Blossom Honeys
Arbutus unedo L. November–December 3 * 2 - Strawberry tree + **
Castanea sativa Miller June 2–3 3 1–2 Chestnut ++
Ceratonia siliqua L. September–October 3 3 2 Carob +
Citrus spp. March–April 3 2 - Citrus, orange etc. ++
Erica arborea L. October–November 2–3 2–3 - Spring Heather ++
Erica manipuliflora Salisb. March 3 2–3 - Autumn Heather ++
Eucalyptus spp. May–July 2–3 2–3 - Eucalyptus +
Gossypium hirsutum L. July–September   - - Cotton ++
Helianthis annuus L. June–August 2–3 2–3 - Sunflower +
Paliurus spina-christi Miller May–June 2–3 2 - Jerusalem thorn +
Phlomis spp.   2–3 - - Jerusalem sage +
Pimpinella anisum L.   1–2 1–2 - Anise +
Polygonum aviculare L. July–August 2 2 - Common knotweed +
Salvia officinalis L.   2–3 2 - Sage +
Thymbra capitata L. June–July 2–3 2 - Thyme +++
Honeydew Honeys
Abies cephalonica Link. May–July - - 3 Fir ++
Pinus spp. March–April, June–August, September–October - - 3 Pine +++
Quercus spp.   - 3 3 Oak +
* Number 1: low contribution; number 2: medium contribution; number 3: high contribution; dash (-): no contribution. ** high (+++), medium (++), and low (+) commercially widespread.
Table 2. Greek legislation criteria of eight common monofloral honeys.
  Pine Fir Chestnut Heather Thyme Citrus Cotton Sunflower
Moisture (%) - ≤18.5 - - - - - -
Electrical conductivity (Ms cm−1) ≥0.9 ≥1.0 ≥1.1 - ≤0.6 ≤0.45 - -
Main pollen (%) of pollen of nectar plants - - ≥87 ≥45 ≥18 * ≥3 ≥3 ≥20
HDE/P ** varies varies - - - - - -
TPG/10g *** varies varies ≥100,000 - <90,000 <70,000 <90,000 <55,000
  major presence of characteristic honeydew elements minor presence of characteristic honeydew elements - - - - - -
* The percentage of accompanying pollen grains of a plant species should not exceed 45%. ** Honeydew elements/pollen. *** Total number of pollen grains.
Today, most consumers are looking for authentic foods [5]. This growing demand is directly connected with market globalization, e-commerce, food chains, and national and international trade. In addition, due to strong economic motivations, more types of fraud are observed, including mislabeling and false declaration regarding origin (Figure 2). Food authentication according to the CEN Workshop Agreement 17,369:2019 is “a food product where there is a match between the actual food product characteristics and the corresponding food product claims; when the food product actually is that the claim says that is[6]. Moreover, Codex Alimentarius described fraud as “any deliberate action of businesses or individuals to deceive others in regards to the integrity of food to gain undue advantage” [7].
Figure 2. A summary of the honey authenticity fields.
The notion of honey authenticity has received great interest worldwide and increased focus in the last twenty years. However, prior to the commentary of the honey authenticity techniques one must distinguish the concept of “honey quality”, “honey standardization”, and “honey packaging” (Figure 3). Honey quality is a summary of characteristics that are considered important for determining the degree of acceptance by the consumer. Honey standardization is the process by which specifications are established of its production, the composition, and the properties. Finally, the packaging is their placement inside a packaging material to be protected from physical, chemical, and biological hazards and to be transported.
Figure 3. From “honey quality” to “honey packaging”.
According to the Scopus database, the most studied authenticity issue is the honey botanical origin differentiation. From reviewing, the most frequent analytical methods of honey botanical discrimination are classical and instrumental chemistry analyses. However, emphasis was given to specific botanical markers and/or in representative “fingerprint” spectra. Table 3 gives an overview of the most ordinary methods for honey authentication.
Table 3. A summary of the methods for the botanical differentiation of honey.
Analytical Technique Abbreviation Main Analytes and Parameters
Melissopalynological and Physicochemical techniques
Optical microscopy OM Pollen analysis
Scanning Electron Microscope SEM
Conductimetry   Electrical conductivity
Refractometer   Moisture
Colorimetry-Photometry   Diastase (Heat abuse)
Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) (Heat abuse)
Potentiometry   Acidity
International commission on Illumination CIE Lightness, color, hue
Viscometer   Rheological properties
pH-meter   pH
Chromatographic techniques
High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Diode-Array Detector HPLC-DAD Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)
High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Refractive Index Detector HPLC-RID Sugars
High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Fluorescence Detector HPLC-FS Amino acids
High-Performance Liquid Chromatography Pulsed Amperometric Detector HPLC-PAD Sugars
High-Performance Thin-Layer Chromatography HPTLC Phenolics
Non-volatile components
Sugars and/or fructose/glucose ratio
Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)
Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry LC-MS Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)
Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry GC-MS Volatiles
Spectroscopic techniques
Ultraviolet–Visible Spectroscopy UV–Vis Spectrum of phenolics
Raman Spectroscopy Raman Sugars spectra and minor components
Fourier-Transform Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy FT-MIR Sugars spectra and minor components
Fourier-Transform Near-Infrared Spectroscopy FT-NIR Sugars spectra and minor components
Fluorescence Spectroscopy FS Spectra of amino acids, phenolics, Maillard reaction by-products
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance NMR Sugars, untargeted and targeted screening
Other techniques
Isotope-Ration Mass Spectrometry IRMS Isotope ration of H, C, N, S, and/or 13C ratios
Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry ICP-MS Chemical elements


  1. EU. Council Directive 2001/110/EC of 20 December 2001 Relating to Honey. Off. J. Eur. Communities 2002, 10, 47–52. Available online: (accessed on 6 November 2021).
  2. Herrera, C.M. Gradual replacement of wild bees by honeybees in flowers of the Mediterranean Basin over the last 50 years. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 2020, 287.
  3. Ruttner, F. Biogeography and Taxonomy of Honeybees; Springer: Berlin/Heidelberg, Germany, 1988; ISBN 978-3-642-72651.
  4. Government Gazette B-239/23-2-2005 Annex II Article 67 of Greek Food Code. 2005. Available online: (accessed on 6 November 2021).
  5. Karoui, R. Food Authenticity and Fraud. In Chemical Analysis of Food: Techniques and Applications; Academic Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2012; pp. 499–517. ISBN 9780123848628.
  6. CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) 17369:2019—Authenticity and Fraud in the Feed and Food Chain—Concepts, Terms, and Definitions. Available online:,FSP_ORG_ID:68640,2273736&cs=1AE0F1E6D2455306ADD8460579462378C (accessed on 6 November 2021).
  7. Codex Alimentarius—Discussion Paper on Food Integrity and Food Authenticity—Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems. Twenty-Fourth Session. Brisbane, Australia, 22–26 October 2018. CX/FICS 18/24/7. Available online: (accessed on 6 November 2021).
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