Fake honey? Not if lasers can help it!

A peculiar story from Wired UK caught my eye this weekend.  Apparently, a lot of our honey is fake.  More than a third of honey sold in the US is supposedly smuggled in from China.  Even worse, it's chock full of fillers and additives and light on the actual bee-stuff.  Clearly, the American honey producers (and consumers) would like this to stop.  Should the industry invest millions or billions in chemical testing on honey?  Maybe, but they could save the research costs if they implemented some technology originally developed for Mars.

In yet another reminder of the value of space research, a laser-based instrument designed to detect carbon in the atmosphere of Mars is being used to check the purity of honey.  The instrument burns a microscopic amount of honey from the top layer of a bottle and analyses it to detect its chemical composition.  If additives have been slipped in, the resulting pattern won't match the reference sample.  In theory, this technique should work for detecting all sorts of counterfeit foods - a boon for us all. 

(It's been a good month for light:  lasers might save us from asteroids, or let us communicate across vast distances. Even tractor beams are looking up!)

Source: Wired UK