Honey crystallisation is a natural process that occurs over time, but many consumers associate it with low-quality or 'off' honey. Unfortunately, pasteurisation, which has been used for years to prevent crystallisation, destroys naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients in honey, and generally reduces the quality. The EU-funded TOPHONEY project worked to solve this problem by developing a heat-free alternative to honey processing. They endeavoured to build an ultrasound-based system that would prevent honey crystallisation without affecting its nutritional value. TOPHONEY first identified the most important honey quality factors, and developed the protocols needed to measure them. Factors included hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), which is an indicator of excessive heat treatment in honey, enzymes that are destroyed during pasteurisation and glucose crystal size. Two laboratory prototype systems for honey processing were built and tested using various sources of honey and different operating conditions. These provided the information needed to build an industrial-scale system. The resulting industrial prototype was then run in parallel with conventional honey pasteurisation to compare its efficacy. The TOPHONEY prototype did not affect HMF concentration, barely degraded the enzymes in the honey and reduced glucose crystals to the same extent. As such, the TOPHONEY project was successful in creating a system to replace the pasteurisation of honey without impacting on honey quality. Overall, this will result in better-quality honey for European consumers.
Honey, honey pasteurisation, pasteurisation, ultrasound, nutritional value, honey crystallisation, honey processing, honey quality, hydroxymethylfurfural, heat treatment, enzymes, glucose crystal