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More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News. The results show that the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled “honey.”
The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world’s food safety agencies.
The food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation* found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.
Chinese honey has long had a poor reputation in the U.S., where – in 2001 – the Federal Trade Commission imposed stiff import tariffs or taxes to stop the Chinese from flooding the marketplace with dirt-cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business.
To avoid the dumping tariffs, the Chinese quickly began transshipping honey to several other countries, then laundering it by switching the color of the shipping drums, the documents and labels to indicate a bogus but tariff-free country of origin for the honey.
Most U.S. honey buyers knew about the Chinese actions because of the sudden availability of lower cost honey, and little was said.
The FDA — either because of lack of interest or resources — devoted little effort to inspecting imported honey. Nevertheless, the agency had occasionally either been told of, or had stumbled upon, Chinese honey contaminated with chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics which are dangerous, even fatal, to a very small percentage of the population.
Good heavens!! So how do you know what you’re getting?
Ambrose, who was co-chair of the team that drafted the state beekeeper association’s honey standards says the language is very simple, “Our standard says that nothing can be added or removed from the honey. So in other words, if somebody removes the pollen, or adds moisture or corn syrup or table sugar, that’s adulteration,” Ambrose told Food Safety News.
But still, he says he’s asked all the time how to ensure that you’re buying quality honey. “The fact is, unless you’re buying from a beekeeper, you’re at risk,” was his uncomfortably blunt reply.
Well, that’s it. The only honey we will have in the house from now on will come from local beekeepers who process and bottle their own honey from their own bees. Mom, since I know you’re reading this, pick up a few jars when you come for Christmas. I’m dumping what’s in the pantry.
*Read this article – even more chilling.
11 thoughts on “Do you know where your honey comes from?”
Fascinating! We are a honey lovin family too and I'm sure have purchased some of those brands listed. Luckily we have a lot of local bee keepers we will be supporting more often now! Thanks for the info sister!
Tell everyone you know. The other article I linked to points to the dangers even more explicitly. Ick.
We always look for honey that is unheated and unfiltered. You can usually find this at an orchard. We get ours from the Russian stores near where we live. Unheated and unfiltered honey is almost always thicker than honey that has been heated. It may be almost solid — you can still dip your spoon in it, and it tastes like the flowers it came from.
You can get good local honey over here. I'll send you an email with details.
I'll certainly make an effort to find local honey. Also local honey is supposed to help with allergies, another good reason to avoid the grocery store honey.
I had no idea about this, but I haven't trusted “store-bought” honey for a long time. We buy ours from a local beekeeper. We are lucky to have one so close!
I'm not a huge honey fan, but live with several. This reinforces why we buy local, organic honey. I was shocked when I read it.
I'm with Mimi. I've had to stop buying honey for my husband because his two shelves in the cabinet are still full. The only ones which might have been ultra-filtered would be the blueberry honey from Target.
We were fortunate to find local honey (as in, a few blocks away) at our local meat market. There's general state-local honey at the produce stand nearby, too.
If you live in Chicago, there are 3 good options: City Hall, The Honey Co-op, and Sweet Beginnings Beeline Honey. I'm partial to the third because Sweet Beginnings employs reformed, former convicts and helps them get back on their feet. And you can buy the last two online if you don't feel like driving across town.
Wow. I've been buying local honey for years; I like to support local producers, and to avoid the carbon miles of shipped goods when I can. I also knew local honey is a good anti-allergen. Plus, it's yummier, but I had no idea that I've been protecting us from this type of thing. Another good reason to avoid processed foods, too.
we are fortunate to have a bee keeper in our neighborhood – local honey from bees that pollinated my garden this summer 🙂