A worrying and comprehensive article appeared a few weeks ago in Food Safety News.
The topic: Honey.
The problem: Most store brought honey could be fake.
The article is quite lengthy, but makes for a good read. Here are the main points:
Honey that we buy in the supermarket comes from US farmers or as imports. In the past massive imports of cheap honey from China created a problem for the local industry, so the US set up tariffs. The other problem was that the honey wan’t always honey – it either had sugar syrups added, or in some cases was simply contaminated with toxins due to lax regulation in China.
When Chinese exporters realized that the US would not let their honey in through the front door, they started to work through middlemen in other countries, setting up elaborate schemes to fool the FDA and USDA.
Fortunately there is a simple way to know where a honey comes from. Honey has a “fingerprint” in the form of pollen content. You see, in each region of the world, there are different flower varieties servicing the local bees. Small amounts of pollen remain in the honey that is then packaged for consumers. Some researchers think that the pollen may actually have health benefits too, but that’s not the main point of the article.
By analyzing the pollen content of you honey jar, a lab can tell you where the honey came from. Brilliant.
Except that Food Safety News discovered that over 75% of honey purchased in US supermarkets have ZERO POLLEN in them. How could that be?
Ultra filtration. Honey is almost always filtered to remove bee parts and other small particles that may have been harvested by the beekeeper. But as of late, ultra filtering has gotten so good that it actually filters out the pollen too. According to industry professionals, Americans prefer the smooth texture of ultra filtered honey, and that’s why it is so popular.
But we also want to know that we’re getting the real deal…
The following sums up the consumer dilemma:
“In many cases, consumers would have an easier time deciphering state secrets than pinning down where the honey they’re buying in groceries actually came from.”
What to do at the supermarket:
If you are honey aficionado, your best bet is to locate a local farmer who keeps bees. The next best may be to buy organic, although some organic honey is also ultra-filtered and there is no promise it didn’t come from abroad either.