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Monday, November 7, 2011

Your Honey may not be Honey


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Today I had another topic in mind as I have written much on honey already this fall, but this morning two different stories hit my in box. If you are new to my blog your can read about Why I like local honey and Why you need to know where your honey is coming from.
Honey is the primary sweetener in my house. I use it in baking, in my tea on our faces and for other skin problems.
Today I was astonished to learn that much of the store bought honey would not pass food safety inspections and qualify as honey. Why is that? When I last wrote about honey it appeared that honey from North and Central America was safe.
Well Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia. These samples were tested at a reliable laboratory. It is a well known scientific fact that honey can be traced to its place of origin based on the pollen. In testing the honey from the grocery stores it was found that
  • 76 percent of samples bought at grocery stores had all the pollen removed
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores had no pollen.
  • 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
  • 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald's and KFC had the pollen removed.
Why should consumers care if their honey has had its pollen removed?
Raw honey has been known through history to have many medicinal properties. Honey has been used for stomach ailments, anemia and allergies.
Removal of all pollen from honey "makes no sense" and is completely contrary to marketing the highest quality product possible, Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, told Food Safety News. Elimination of all pollen can only be achieved by ultra-filtering and this filtration process does nothing but cost money and diminish the quality of the honey," Jensen said. In my judgment, it is pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it's even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law," he added.  
It's no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China," Adee added.
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. Even though the Florida state Beekeepers Association has standards for honey there are no National standards for honey. Oddly enough other countries, have higher standards for food than the United States.

So what can you do?
  • Buy local honey- everyone one of the samples  Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and "natural" stores like PCC and Trader Joe's had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.
  • Buy organic honey -the analysis found that your odds are somewhat better of getting honey that wasn't ultra-filtered if you buy brands labeled as organic. Out of seven samples tested, five (71 percent) were heavy with pollen.
  • Check country of origin - all of the organic honey was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.
  • Don’t buy processed foods. The National Honey Board, a federal research and promotion organization under USDA oversight, says the bulk of foreign honey (at least 60 percent or more) is sold to the food industry for use in baked goods, beverages, sauces and processed foods. 
  • If you want real honey avoid these brands.

for additional reading check out Food Safety News

this post is linked up to Fat Tuesday,Traditional TuesdaysHearth and SoulYour Green ResourceGreen and Natural Mama


Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias said...

It is so sad that this is what our 'food' system has become. We finally purchased our own honey bees this year. Even though we were buying local before, from our hay guy (and all he did was extract and put it in buckets) it still seems to taste better when its home grown.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Megan - our whole food system makes me said. The system is definitely broke and who knows when it will be fixes. I am intriqued by your getting bees. We have considered it for ourselves, and of course if you have too much honey you can always pass it on.

Crunchy Con Mommy said...

I wonder whether Sue Bee raw honey is legit. That's what I buy, because it's processed and supposedly sourced from near where we live. But I see their "normal" honey was on the naughty list!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

That is a good question. If it is ultra filtered it probably not legit. I would try to buy my honey from a local beekeeper. Remember the pollen is what gives honey its great medicinal properties. Any other honey is just a sweetener, no better than sugar or HFCS.

Brittany @ The Pistachio Project said...

Now I need to double check my honey. Normally I like to buy raw but it's more money so I tend to just buy cheap stuff when I'm out. :(

I'm mentioned PCC in your post...does that mean you are in WA like me? :)

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Brittany - I am like you I tend to walk the line between $$ and what is best for my family. Actually I am in Oklahoma, home of tornadoes and now Earthquakes.

Julie said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the post.

Jill said...

Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

Be sure to visit on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

Jill said...

This post will be featured at Sunday Snippets this week! Please come over and check it out! I’ll be at the conference this weekend so I can’t send the link.


juliecache said...

I truly enjoy knowing the honey that our backyard bees gives us is really honey. I want to note that since keepers cannot totally control the bees' food sources, claims of "organic honey" can be pretty tough to prove. If the keepers are in an isolated place like my friends at, then I feel safe that the honey is not the product of chemically treated plants. I also want everyone to know that pollen can be filtered out by gravity without heat and dilution by a backyard keeper. And as an Iowan, I'm _seriously_ disappointed in Sioux Honey.

juliecache said...

Example: my neighbors might or might not be using Sevin, and my bees visit the flowers in that yard and bring back nectar for honey. I didn't treat my bees with chemicals, but I have no way to control my neighbor.

Good Girl Gone Green said...

This make me sad. What have we become. We can't trust anyone. I am going to go live in a glass bubble somewhere now...:)

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Stephanie - we must continue to fight the good fight and save the starfish. Support the local farmer.

Andrea @ The Greenbacks Gal said...

Really interesting. I'm glad I have a huge jar from the local farm in my cupboard!

All Natural Katie said...

Wow, yet another natural product that has "bit the bullet." I started buying local honey because it is supposed to be better for you, especially if you have environmental allergies. Thank you for providing evidence to support my decision!

Emily @ Random Recycling said...

Wow. This makes me so sad to see something as natural as honey be ruin by all the processing.

Question~ should all raw honey solidify at a certain point? I bought a big jar at a farmer's market and it's still not solidifying after 3 months. I'm curious now how accurate the honey labels are on the market.

juliecache said...

I've had my honey stay liquid for over a year. That's why my grandpa loves getting his honey from us.

Penniless Parenting said...

This bugs me so much. I mean I still don't understand how they know filtered honey isn't really honey, but just is sugar syrup or whatever...
I buy honey in my country (not US) and its a fortune here and its produced here, so I only hope that this honey is good stuff... For the price we're paying, it better be.

Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and soul blog hop.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

@Penniless Parenting - I would venture to say that your honey is much better than most of what is to be found here. I typically buy mine from our local producers but there are times when I must by from the big box stores, and that is what started all of my research on honey this year.

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