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.