Funny Honey: the Murky Contents of Commercial Honey

Funny honey – it’s really not that funny

With so many options to choose from, sometimes grocery shopping can get complicated. This is especially true when it comes to funny honey. If it isn’t just flavored high fructose corn syrup, funny honey is adulterated honey that contains cheaper sweeteners, illegally trafficked honey, and/or chemicals. US honey companies can dilute honey with other sweeteners to save money, and many receive imported honey, which can come from countries with lax environmental safety regulations.

While we normally look at labels to inform our choices, even a flavored sweetener can be labeled “pure honey”. This is because the FDA has no regulations or definition for honey; they currently only have a drafted guideline for honey companies. The ugly truth is that about 70% of the honey on US grocery store shelves is adulterated honey, or in other words, funny honey. It is not pure honey, yet its label may advertise it as such.

 

Be careful when buying honey - even flavored corn syrup can be labeled 'pure honey' Click To Tweet

 

Up close and impersonal with funny honey

honey

Unlike pure honey, adulterated honey is a lot more runny. While this can indicate the presence of other sweeteners, the thinness of commercial honey is also a result of extensive processing that the product undergoes before it is packed. It’s common practice to filter honey to remove bee parts, wax, and other objects, but commercial processing often involves diluting and re-condensing honey, as well as the use of diatomaceous earth and/or additives. The processing practices vary among companies, but what is most concerning is that even if ingredients other than honey are used, adulterated honey can still be labeled honey. Because the FDA has not defined what honey is, companies can leave the label “honey” up for interpretation.

Upon inspection, many brands of commercial honey contain absolutely no pollen. For honey to contain no pollen, it was either never honey in the first place, or has undergone a meticulous process of ultra-filtration. True honey will always contain pollen, and no standard filtration process will remove that.

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It’s difficult to conceive of a reason to remove pollen from honey – there is little to gain from the ultra-filtration process. Aside from costing extra money, ultra-filtration removes the pollen that gives honey much of its medicinal value. Many would even argue that honey without pollen plainly contradicts the definition of honey. It’s an unnatural state for honey, but with so many companies paying extra to achieve it, they must have a justification for the extra effort.

Some of these companies offer reasons for ultra-filtration, such as improving aesthetics and preventing crystallization. Others refuse to comment on the reasoning behind their practices. These ultra-filtered honeys are being sold under some of the most familiar and long-standing brands in the US, which consumers tend to trust. There are many reasons to forego ultra-filtration however; honey can be heated to dissolve crystals, and the pollen in honey contributes to many of its medicinal benefits.
A close look at honey can tell you a lot about its source, but not commercial honey Click To Tweet

 

No pollen = no source verification

In the absence of other proof, examining the pollen of honey is the only way that one can verify its country of origin, and the disappearance of pollen from many brands in recent years have coincided with a steep tariff placed to prevent imports from Chinese honey producers. There is a good chance that these honey producers are up to something else when they opt for ultra-filtration.

The US Commerce Department decided to bar imports from China because it was so inexpensive that it was a threat to the US economy, but many Chinese honey producers also use illegal animal antibiotics and chemicals that wind up in their honey. The risk of consuming these additives is also present when consuming honey from some other countries, but it just so happens that Chinese honey is still making its way into the US through other countries. Since placing the tariff, the US has been receiving an influx of honey imports from countries that not only weren’t big exporters of honey before, but who were incapable of producing the amount of honey they were exporting. These countries also happen to be China’s neighbors, such as India, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

honey

 

How to avoid funny honey

The best way to avoid adulterated honey is to buy local honey from a source that you can trust. Purchase your honey from farmer’s markets, co-ops, or local apiaries. Not only will your honey have health benefits and an honest source, but you will also be supporting people who are helping sustain your local honey bee populations. These bees need us and we need them too!

Buy pure honey you can trust from local beekeepers, co-ops, and farmer's markets Click To Tweet

 

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5 Surprising Honey Facts

 


Sources

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/science/honey-laundering-the-sour-side-of-natures-golden-sweetener/article562759/
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2011/12/13/142903171/funny-honey-bringing-trust-to-a-sweet-sector-fraught-with-suspicion
http://lifehacker.com/counterfeit-foods-and-how-to-spot-them-1775663899
http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/#.V4m_-zV0fzc
http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2011/11/25/142659547/relax-folks-it-really-is-honey-after-all