C4 Sugars

This test is used internationally to detect whether honey has been adulterated by adding sugar (mainly cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup).  

Sugars produced from tropical plants like sugar cane and maize/corn are produced using a photosynthetic pathway referred to as the C4 pathway.  Nectar which is collected by bees comes from plants that use a different process of photosynthesis, referred to as the C3 pathway.  There is a measurable difference in the ratio of the naturally occurring carbon-12 and carbon-13 isotopes in sugars arising from the C3 and C4 pathways, and this test uses this difference to identify whether C4 sugar appears to have been added to the honey.

The test reports an apparent C4 sugar content, and there is an internationally accepted limit for apparent C4 sugar content (as measured by this test) of 7%.

In recent years it has been shown that Manuka honeys can have an apparent C4 sugar test result that is higher than 7%, even when it is clear that no sugar has been added.  Ongoing research is being undertaken to investigate this, and perhaps identify an alternative way of detecting sugar adulteration.  In the meantime, this remains as an important test for access to some international markets.

Please note, this test is designed for pure honey only. Honey with organic additives (e.g. ginger, berries, etc.) are not suitable for this test.

Click here to read more about C4 Sugars in an article written by one of our technologists for The New Zealand Beekeeper Journal. 

How does Analytica conduct the test

Protein (mainly derived from pollen) is extracted from honey by precipitation, and is analysed for its carbon-12 to carbon-13 ratio.  The carbon-12 to carbon-13 ratio is also analysed in the whole honey, and the difference between the values for whole honey and protein is used to calculate the apparent C4 sugar content.

Analytica uses Isotope Ratio Mass Spectroscopy and Cavity Ringdown Spectroscopy to carry out this testing, conforming to the internationally recognised AOAC standard method.



The Screening Test is a ‘cut down’ version of the AOAC reference method. While results are more viable, you still receive a good indication of what the test result would be if tested using the full method (AOAC).
At half the price of AOAC it’s a cost-effective option, suited to testing honey at extraction, when buying or selling, and prior to blending. Note: test results are more viable than


Comprehensive test which fully conforms to the AOAC 998.12 standard. With less variable results than C4 Screen, it is recommended for use in final production or packed samples and will be preferred by those needing a higher level of precision and/or a test certificate based on this internationally recognised method.


Both the C4 Sugar AOAC and C4 Sugar Screen tests are IANZ accredited.

Pricing and Turnaround Time

Standard 3 - 5 day TAT of C4 Sugar results*. Please contact Analytica for current pricing on 07 974 4740 or at sales@analytica.co.nz

*TAT may be extended during busy season Jan - May.   

Why Use Analytica?

Analytica offers significantly reduced turnaround time, highly competitive prices, and strong client support.

How to take and submit a sample

How to take and submit a sample

To have your honey tested, send approximately 50g of honey in a plastic pottle with a screw lid.  A representative sample is required.  The sample should not contain wax.

Download and complete our Analysis Request Form either in PDF format or as a Word document, and send it along with your samples to:

Analytica Laboratories Ltd
Ruakura Research Centre
10 Bisley Road,
Hamilton 3214
New Zealand

Get Analysis Request Forms

Don’t forget to label each sample container with a unique name or code, matching the Sample Identification that you write on the Analysis Request Form. We will invoice you when we report your results. 

Please email the Sample Reception team at sample.receipt@analytica.co.nz if you are sending more than 40 samples to make the most of our testing prices and turnaround times.

To send samples from overseas, please see our instructions and import permits.

*For some ideas on collecting a representative honey sample, have a look at this article published in 'The New Zealand BeeKeeper'.

Analytica Laboratories


P: +64 7 974 4740
E: sales@analytica.co.nz

Ruakura Research Centre,
10 Bisley Road, Private Bag 3345,
Hamilton 3240
New Zealand


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