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Topographical discrimination of Heterotrigona itama honey by their major-to-trace elements analysis using ICP-OES employed with chemometrics

Ganapaty Manickavasagam, Mardiana Saaid, Vuanghao Lim, Zi Jian Tey, and Rozita Osman

School of Chemical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Gelugor, Malaysia



Received: 4 December 2022  Accepted: 31 May 2023


Heterotrigona itama (H. itama) honey was collected from apiculturists in three different meliponiculture sites in Peninsular Malaysia and was subjected to major-to-trace elements analysis using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). Four major elements and eight trace elements were analysed in all the samples and a chemometric approach was used for the topographical discrimination of these samples. The average concentration range of major elements was 385.19 ± 14.63 to 1197.58 ± 678.34 mg/kg for potassium, 41.05 ± 20.22 to 57.34 ± 19.98 mg/kg for sodium, 116.94 ± 16.58 to 144.40 ± 16.12 mg/kg for calcium, and 30.01 ± 3.19 to 182.92 ± 153.18 mg/kg for magnesium. Comparing the estimated daily intake of Malaysian adults per capita and the daily recommended intake by the Ministry of Health Malaysia, it can be deduced that H. itama honey is safe for human consumption. Nevertheless, H. itama honey from Pulau Pinang should be avoided as it contains toxic trace elements (Cd, Ni, and As), which can be accumulated in human bodies. Besides, principal component analysis (PCA) and partial least square-discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) showed a good discrimination pattern among the samples from different origins. The discrimination pattern was strongly associated with trace elements (Cu, Fe, and Mn) as the variable importance in projection (VIP) scores for these elements were > 1.0. The PLS-DA score plot was also justified with a permutation test and the result was valid (p < 0.001). Putative chemical markers of major-to-trace elements followed this order: manganese > iron > copper > sodium > calcium > nickel > arsenic > cadmium > zinc > aluminium > potassium > magnesium.

Keywords: Heterotrigona itama honey; Major elements; Trace elements; ICP-OES; Chemometrics

Full paper is available at

DOI: 10.1007/s11696-023-02905-1


Chemical Papers 77 (10) 5859–5871 (2023)

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