Honey gleams on the shelves of grocery, discount, and drug stores like bottled sunshine. The contrast is noticeable because it’s often surrounded by artificial products that marketers promote as “food.” But here’s the ugly truth. Even that honey probably isn’t what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers to be real honey.
I wrote about this three years ago, noting that products labeled “honey” coming from China typically contained packer’s syrup (commonly corn syrup, rice syrup, artificial sweeteners, water, thickeners, and other additives).
Worse, honey imported from a number of Asian countries is contaminated with lead (due to storage in lead-lined barrels) and the antibiotic chloramphenicol, which, when present in food, can cause a fatal reaction. Up to a third of all honey on store shelves is likely to be from these sources. That’s a lot of fake honey (and profit). The U.S. imports more than 200 million pounds a year.
According to Food Safety News, three-quarters of the honey sold in the U.S. contains no pollen. This means the product is either ultra filtered or doesn’t come from bees at all. Ultra filtering is a high-tech process used by unethical honey producers. The honey is heated, sometimes watered down (or dried and reconstituted), then forced at high pressure through filters to remove pollen. This process destroys the health-enhancing effect of honey’s enzymes, nutrients, and pollen. Let’s remember, pollen is the only sure way to identify the source of honey, so ultra filtering is a way to hide its origin.
Research by Texas A&M University, sponsored by Food Safety News, found:
- *Not one single serve packet of honey tested from McDonalds, KFC, or Smuckers contained pollen.
- *Three-quarters of samples from grocery stores including Giant Eagle, Kroger, Metro Market, or Safeway contained no pollen.
- *More than three-quarters of samples from big box stores including Walmart, Target, and Sam’s Club contained no pollen.
- *All samples from farmer’s markets, co-ops, and natural stores had the full amount of pollen.
We have much to learn from bees and the health-enhancing honey they create. Sometimes it seems the way we treat them, their honey, and each other teaches us more than we want to know about ourselves.
This morning, I had whole wheat blackberry pancakes with honey . . . real honey from a local farmer. YUMMY!
Wow Laura, why am I surprised? I just watched Food, Inc. for the first time. Because I live in a farming community with commercial poultry farms and corn/soybean fields, and have been in the chicken houses and the processing plants, and watch the round-up trucks come and spray within YARDS of my organic garden, that movie did not surprise me. But to mess with honey? SIGH!
I live in a farming community too. I can hardly bear to drive by calf huts. No way I could make myself watch Food, Inc.
My big honey jug from Sam’s Club says “product of the USA”- does that mean it’s okay? It is the “great value” store brand. I’ve noticed that store brands are often produced in the USA while the heavily advertised national brands are imported. In my community a small potato chip company stays afloat by making the same chips they’ve made for 50 years and packaging them in several different store brand bags.
Of course, they are still unhealthy, even if they are local. I don’t buy them anymore. Sigh.
My husband was bee inspector for two counties. According to him, honey can be labeled “USA” if a small percentage of US produced honey is mixed in. I believe 20% US honey is all that’s required.
As for local potato chips, buy them to put in fun gift baskets!
Laura is right, because for food the “country of origin” is the place where it was last significantly processed(with an example of this being Wild Alaskan Halibut Product of Thailand). Most food products, and especially heavy ones such as honey, will always give domestic producers an advantage, but the greatest hurdle for domestic manufacturing and food processing is the massive cost associated with opening and running a plant. In California you can make a large list of “low risk” food products in your home and sell them in local markets and direct sales, which could easily replace about a 3rd of the grocery store with local production from organic gardens.
Thanks for this illuminating entry. I had no idea that commercial honey is such a scam. And now that my order of genuine homegrown Bit Of Earth Farm honey has arrived, I look forward to enjoying the real thing. That is, if the recipients allow me to have a taste. These will be Christmas stocking stuffers for Fiona, Anjelica and Nikhita.
P.S. Love the labels on the jars, too.