Apples and honey, AP
Apples and honey Photo by AP
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It's one of the signs that the Rosh Hashanah holiday is approaching: The upsurge in demand for honey to usher in a sweet new year leads to an upsurge in efforts to sell fake honey in stores and open-air markets.

The Agriculture Ministry, in conjunction with the Israel Honey Board, has responded with a stepped-up enforcement effort.

The two organizations are currently focused on trying to find the con man who produced 11 tons of fake honey, fraudulently labeled with a well-known brand name, and unloaded it on a small grocery store chain in the central Sharon region.

Fake honey contains no plant nectar, and is generally mere sugar dissolved in water.

Selling fake honey is a popular scam because successful perpetrators find is a sweet deal thanks to a very high profit margin.

The 11 tons nabbed in the Sharon region were destroyed, on orders from the agriculture and health ministries, but the effort to find the con man is ongoing.

To prevent being conned, the Honey Board and the Agriculture Ministry recommend buying only well-known brands, and only from properly regulated stores, or directly from an apiary.

"Fraud happens ever year, but over the last two years, there has been an upsurge," said Shimshon Herlinger, vice president of the Honey Board.

Honey producers have also suffered from thefts of beehives in recent years, but Herlinger said this problem has declined lately.

"The Border Police's intensive activity to prevent agricultural crime, along with the efficacy of the separation fence, have produced good results," Herlinger said.

Herlinger added that stiffer penalties and beefed-up security at the apiaries has also helped.