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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why do I need to Know Where My Honey is Coming From?


For my honey is a kitchen staple. I use it every day in my tea, when I bake it is my sweetener of choice. I use it when we have colds or allergies. I use it to wash my face.  I do my best to buy local honey, but this year our recent drought and heat wave mean that there is no local honey. In fact our local beekeepers may have to supplement the bees with food this year. So I am having to buy my honey at the store.
Have you heard the recent news? If not check your honey. Food Safety News recently reported that Asian Honey  was  Found to be Tainted. Now this is a problem because one third of all honey sold in the United States comes from China.
Experts interviewed by Food Safety News say some of the largest and most long-established U.S. honey packers are knowingly buying mislabeled, transshipped or possibly altered honey so they can sell it cheaper than those companies who demand safety, quality and rigorously inspected honey.  It is not enough to check your labels, for honey from China,  as some of the tainted honey has come to us through India, Vietnam and Malaysia It has been repackaged so that the labels have the new country of origin.   How do investigators know this?  India is shipping more honey than it can produce. Sometimes they don’t even bother to change the barrel. They simply change the label on the barrel  That is a little sneaky, but not as sneaky as the fact that 1/3 of all honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China, through another country. Well once I stopped laughing picturing honey smugglers, think little bears, I wondered why this was so horrible.  Well what if I told you that this honey is thought to be contaminated with antibiotics and heavy metals.
It seems that the animal antibiotics were used in the early 2000s to thwart a bacterial epidemic that was killing tens of millions of bees. The FDA has banned the presence of the drug in food; even in small amounts, because it can cause a severe or fatal reaction in about 1 out of 30,000 people.  The lead contamination has been traced back to the thousands of small beekeeping operations in China that use unlined, lead-soldered drums to collect and store honey before transferring it to processors. Seems to me that China has a history of lead contamination in its food.
Interestingly enough Food safety investigators from the European Union have banned all of honey from India because of the presence of lead and illegal animal antibiotics.  Supposedly, any food that has been banned in another country can not legally be imported into the U.S.  I guess honey is not a food?
If all that is not shocking researchers have discovered that some of the honey being imported isn’t even honey at all.  Chinese brokers mix sugar, water,  jaggery, barley malt sweetener or other additives with a bit of actual honey.  Recently many honey shippers don’t even use honey. They just  use thickened, colored, natural or chemical sweeteners labeled as honey. Seriously?!
Now the real problem is that the United States 65 percent of honey sold in the U.S. goes into processed and packaged food.   Not surprisingly, there are 12 major US honey packers. It is estimated that 4-5 of these producers are bottling honey from Asia.  As with most US food the market is controlled by a limited number of producers.
I love my honey in my morning tea, and when I do bake sweets honey is my choice for sweetener. But recently while shopping I found a bottle of “honey”. That did not have any honey it it.  So what can we do? Buy your honey locally if you can. If you are in the Rhode Island area check out my good friend at South County Honey.  Unfortunately, for me my two favorite local small producers do not have a honey crop this fall, another side effect of a drought.  But I have found some  other local producers, and I have discovered that if you must buy honey in the grocery store the honey from Canada and countries in Latin America are still considered safe for honey production.  As for me I am off to read more labels, buy less processed food and make more Real Food for my family.

this post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday, Living Well Blog Hop, Fresh Feed Friday, Fight Back Friday at The Food Renegade,Traditional Tuesday

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this post is linked to Simple Lives ThursdayLiving Well Blog HopFresh Feed FridayFight Back Friday at The Food Renegade

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CatholicMommy said...

So frustrating! Honey is one of those things I feel good about eating, because it's natural and a healthy way to add sweetness. Guess I will keep an eye out next time we go to the market. Thanks for the information!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

I know, I thought I was doing good too but with a shortage of local honey here, I have had to go to the store to buy it. I am so glad that I found this out before I purchased any. I found some localish honey that will do for now.

Mom E said...

They say it's even better to *try* and get local honey if possible,it's a little pricier but also helps (especially kidS)with allergies due to environment. Thanks for the information. That's terrible!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Mom E - I normally do use local honey. I have two good sources, both within 5 miles of me. But we have unfortunately had a drought this year and there is no honey crop. For sure local honey helps with allergies.

Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said...

Thank you SO much for sharing this info! I had not heard about this and we are big honey consumers. We try to buy local too, but I will be checking all of our honey from now on.

Thanks for linking up at Green & Natural Mamas Thursday!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

I read this news a couple of weeks ago, but when I went shopping and needed honey I realized how difficult it was to find honey that would not be tainted. Not only that much of our imported honey is used in processed food.

blueberriesforme said...

We buy from local places in Montana. Also plus side - super delicious. I think there is a honey festival coming up sometime soon around here. Excited!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Blueberriesforme- so jealous, I normally buy mine locally. I like to buy it from one of the teacher's at school. But with our drought this year there was no spring honey. I agree with you the local honey is the best. I will miss it this year.

Gaby @ Tmuffin said...

Local honey is so good. When I tried it for the first time, I thought, "THIS is honey." It tastes so different than the stuff you buy in the little bear in the grocery store. An employee at my local coop tells me that some of our local honey is so dark because the bees go through the swamps and there is such a rich variety of fragrant flowers there. I don't know if that's true, but it's cool.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Gaby, local REAL honey does taste soo much better. Another reason to eat it.

Mommyof6 said...

I just bought 600 pounds of raw local honey. It was way cheaper than anything from the store and tastes so much better. Getting a co-op together and buying in bulk from local producers is another viable option. We use only honey in our house for a sweetener and for medicinal purposes.

lilsuburbanhomestead said...

I watched the vanishing of the bees and it made me so upset! I did not realize that funny honey was coming into our country. Now we raise our own bees and will soon produce our own honey for our family basically a sugar source and thank goodness after what I read about all the chemicals that go into bee keeping!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

We just don't produce enough honey in the United Stated to met the demands of people and processed food. It is great everyone is buying local honey already, but 60% of all imported honey is used in processed food. We need to address our use of processed food too.

Be Not Afraid said...

I just bought honey in Costco. I guess I better rethink this. Thanks for this informative page. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Just be sure to read the label and check the country of origin. It may be perfectly fine.

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