A recent report from Canada’s Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) revealed the results of its honey authenticity surveillance program, which ran from 2019 to 2020. The purpose was to detect the presence of foreign sugars in both domestic honey and imported honey sold in Canada.

In a different situation, the U.S. FDA’s MedWatch had been monitoring in roughly the same time period a product named Royal Honey, which was sold by ahmedjamilmuslim via eBay and found to have illegal amounts of tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis, an FDA-approved prescription drug for erectile dysfunction. This drug can interact with certain medicines used for coronary care and cause unsafe drops in blood pressure.

Too sweet a problem in Canada

In Canada, the sampling and testing of honey products was conducted similarly to research conducted from 2018-2019. As in the earlier report, each sample was tested using both stable isotope ratio analysis (SIRA) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analyses. [1]

A total of 275 honey samples were collected across Canada and tested for adulteration with foreign sugars using SIRA and NMR technologies. The 2019-2020 sampling approach differed from the previous year, in that two types of sampling—targeted and marketplace—were conducted.

In the targeted sampling, CFIA inspectors collected 127 samples where the chance of non-compliance was higher, based on risk-factors such as a history of non-compliance, gaps in preventive controls, or unusual trading patterns. Products sampled included single-ingredient honey products such as bulk and honey for further processing from importers and a small proportion from domestic establishments.

In the marketplace sampling, the CFIA contracted a third party to collect 148 honey samples at retailers in various Canadian cities as part of CFIA’s compliance monitoring of the marketplace to gauge overall compliance. All samples were prepackaged, single ingredient honey—typical as sold to consumers. The results from these surveys are used by the CFIA to carry out targeted sampling, where non-compliance is most likely.

The results of the recent targeted sampling showed a total of 127 samples collected—16, domestic and 111, imported. A total of 110 samples (86.6%) tested satisfactorily by both SIRA and NMR testing. Seventeen samples (13.3%) tested unsatisfactorily by one or both methods. Of these 17 unsatisfactory results, 16 were imported and one was domestic.

The results of the marketplace monitoring were derived from a total of 148 samples—of which 103 were domestic Canadian products and 45 were imported. CFIA reported 145 samples (98%) were satisfactory using SIRA and NMR testing. Three samples (2%) tested unsatisfactorily by one or both methods. Of the three unsatisfactory samples, all were imported.

It is important to note that samples collected by CFIA inspectors (targeted sampling), were based on risk factors for non-compliance. Therefore these results indicate a lower compliance rate and are not representative of the Canadian marketplace overall.

Potent illegally drugged honey

In December 2020 FDA’s MedWatch advised consumers not to purchase or use Royal Honey, a product promoted and sold for sexual enhancement on various websites and possibly in some retail stores. FDA lab analysis confirmed that Royal Honey purchased from Ebay contained tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis. [2]

According to FDA, this notification was to inform the public of a growing trend of dietary supplements or conventional foods with hidden drugs and chemicals. These products are typically promoted for sexual enhancement, weight loss, and body building and are often represented as being “all natural.”

FDA is unable to test and identify all products marketed as dietary supplements that have potentially harmful hidden ingredients. Therefore, FDA recommends that consumers should exercise caution before purchasing any product in the above categories.

Does Royal Honey fit FDA’s definition of economically motivated adulteration or food fraud? Even if it doesn’t, it’s illegal under FDA rules.


[1] “Report: Honey authenticity surveillance results (2019 to 2020),” CFIA Website, Accessed 13 January 2022

[2] “Public Notification: Royal Honey contains hidden drug ingredient,” FDA Website, Accessed 13 January 2022

“Economically Motivated Adulteration (Food Fraud),” FDA Website, Accessed 13 January 2022

VACCP: HACCP for vulnerability assessments,” FE, February, 2016.