By: AE Pillay, S. Stephen and S. Vukusic

Keywords: ICP-MS, honey, toxic trace elements.

Abstract: This paper represents a benchmark study that compares trace toxic elemental concentrations in honey products from various countries to establish a set of guidelines against which subsequent honey analyses could be referenced. Honey is a popular food item, widely consumed as part of a dietary regimen. Honey products originating from nine different countries were analyzed for toxic trace elements following microwave digestion in mild acid media (3% HNO3). A comparative study of this nature has not been previously reported and could provide useful data particularly from an environmental and nutritional perspective. High-performance ICP-MS was employed to examine the levels of a range of noxious elements in aqueous samples. The performance of the instrument was validated using certified reference standards. Minor fluctuations in performance were adjusted by use of an internal standard. Sixteen elements were selected for investigation and the mean concentration ranges are summarized as follows: Li, Be, Ag, Cd, Sb, Hg, Tl, Bi, Th, U occurred in the range 1-25 ?g/L; Pb, Se V, Ni, Cr, Al were observed in the interval 0.1- 4 mg/L. These toxins tend to originate from natural flora associated with the honey or from the chemical processes linked to the production of honey. In some samples “spikes” or elevated elemental levels were observed, which could be used to identify or “fingerprint” the country of origin of the corresponding honey sample. Our work could be considered a valuable source of reference data, and could contribute to environmental, food and forensic science.

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