Microbiological quality of artisanal honey sold in informal markets: A case study in Accra, Ghana
An increase in consumer consciousness for health has contributed to an increase in honey consumption in Ghana. In Accra, artisanal honey is often retailed unprocessed and packaged in recycled plastic bottles, yet consumers show confidence in its safety. There are however no data to support such confidence in unprocessed artisanal honey sold in informal markets. Bacteriological studies conducted in other parts of the world have reported the presence of hygiene indicators such as aerobic bacteria and coliforms, fungi, and bacterial spores of public health importance. The aim of the study was to assess intrinsic properties and microbial quality of artisanal honey in Accra. Thirty honey samples were purchased from five informal markets in Accra. Random sampling was used to select two retailers from each of the five markets. The intrinsic parameters, pH and moisture content, were measured for each sample and correlated with concentrations of yeast and mould, total aerobic bacteria, coliforms and aerobic spore-forming bacteria. The results showed that the pH and moisture of the samples ranged from 3.77-5.40 and 15.38%-19.71% respectively. These were within the reference limits of 3.5-5.5 for pH and <20% for moisture. Coliforms, yeasts, moulds, aerobic spore-forming bacteria and aerobic viable bacteria in artisanal honey exceeded the 2 log CFU/gm limit recommended by the International Commission for Microbiological Specification of Foods. There was no correlation between their intrinsic properties and microbial quality, indicating that the presence of microorganisms was a result of recent contamination, likely from poor handling and storage practices. Although the physical properties did not favour the growth and survival of microbes, their presence in excess of the recommended limit suggests unhygienic handling and storage. Training of processors and retailers on good hygienic practices will control the introduction of contaminants into artisanal honey.