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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

DNA traces the origin of honey by identifying plants, bacteria and fungi

Wirta, Helena; Abrego, Nerea; Miller, Kirsten; Roslin, Tomas; Vesterinen, Eero


The regional origin of a food product commonly afects its value. To this, DNA-based identifcation of tissue remains could ofer fne resolution. For honey, this would allow the usage of not only pollen but all plant tissue, and also that of microbes in the product, for discerning the origin. Here we examined how plant, bacterial and fungal taxa identifed by DNA metabarcoding and metagenomics diferentiate between honey samples from three neighbouring countries. To establish how the taxonomic contents of honey refect the country of origin, we used joint species distribution modelling. At the lowest taxonomic level by metabarcoding, with operational taxonomic units, the country of origin explained the majority of variation in the data (70–79%), with plant and fungal gene regions providing the clearest distinction between countries. At the taxonomic level of genera, plants provided the most separation between countries with both metabarcoding and metagenomics. The DNA-based methods distinguish the countries more than the morphological pollen identifcation and the removal of pollen has only a minor efect on taxonomic recovery by DNA. As we fnd good resolution among honeys from regions with similar biota, DNA-based methods hold great promise for resolving honey origins among more diferent regions.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2021, Volume: 11, number: 1, article number: 4798

      SLU Authors

      • Sustainable Development Goals

        SDG2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

        UKÄ Subject classification

        Plant Biotechnology

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