Is Your Honey Safe?
Where's the Pollen?
Know Your Honey
Have you ever wondered what’s actually in your honey? If it’s labeled pure honey or organic, natural, raw, filtered or unfiltered, what does that really mean? Maybe a better question to ask is - Do you know what’s NOT in your honey? Sound confusing? That’s the problem, most consumers don’t know what they are getting when they buy honey and you can be sure the Food and Drug Administration is not taking steps to make it any clearer. But, why all the secrecy?
Well, the problem might lie in the fact that many consumers are purchasing a product that they think is honey, but in all actuality does not even fit the FDA’s definition of honey. According to the FDA, a product that has been ultra-filtered and no longer contains any pollen is not honey. Unfortunately, even with this definition, the vast majority of product labeled “honey” found in grocery stores across the U.S. not only contains no pollen, but deliberate attempts have been taken in order to intentionally erase all traces of its place of origin. This practice is not only unethical and deceptive, but it is also illegal.
Food Safety News ordered independent testing of honey from grocery stores, drug stores and individual serving portions used by Smuckers, KFC and McDonald’s. The results were disturbing. Of the grocery stores, including Kroger, Safeway, A&P and others, 76% of the samples tested contained no trace of pollen. Similarly, honey from big box stores like Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target and Costco revealed that 77% contained no pollen. Additionally, drug stores, such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid didn’t have even one honey sample that included any trace of pollen. The same is true with the single serving packages offered by Smucker, KFC and McDonald’s, none of these samples contained pollen.
Real Honey Has Pollen
Why is pollen important?
Ultra filtration is an unscrupulous practice that not only removes all pollen from the product, but it leaves it virtually untraceable. The ultra-filtration process involves heating the honey, then forcing it through small filters using high pressure. Sometimes the product is watered down or high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners are added in order to increase yield and minimize production costs. Inferior and untraceable “honey” can contain everything from antibiotics to dangerous heavy metals. Unfortunately, without the pollen, there is no way honey can be traced back to its place of origin.
Investigations have found that the U.S. honey market has been flooded with contaminated “honey” from India that was banned in Europe because of unsafe contamination. The World Health Organization as well as food safety divisions in many countries have ruled that honey that has been ultra-filtered and stripped of all pollen results in a product that is unable to be traced and that there is no way to determine whether it comes from a safe and legitimate source. The Chinese have used ultra-filtration as an effective way to dump tons of contaminated honey on U.S. markets for many years.
Products labeled as honey, but with the pollen removed, does not pass the quality standards set by most of the food safety agencies around the world. In fact, according to Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producer’s Association, removing pollen from honey “makes no sense.” He says that eliminating pollen requires ultra-filtration which not only costs money, but diminishes the quality of the honey. Jensen goes on to say that in his opinion, it is safe to assume that any honey that is ultra-filtered is Chinese in origin and that it is even safer to assume that this honey entered the U.S. uninspected and in violation of federal law.
Clearly, removing pollen from the honey is a direct attempt at hiding its origin. Unfortunately, approximately 3/4 of the honey now available in U.S. stores is ultra-filtered and lacking the pollen necessary for it to be legitimately labeled as honey.
The following brands of honey were tested by Food Safety News with no trace of pollen found.
- American Choice Clover Honey
- Archer Farms Orange Blossom Honey
- Archer Farms Organic Classic Honey
- Busy Bee Organic Honey
- Busy Bee, Pure Clover Honey
- CVS Honey
- Fred Meyer Clover Honey
- Full Circle Pure Honey
- Giant Eagle Clover Honey
- GE Clover Honey
- Great Value, Clover Honey
- Haggen Honey, Natural & Pure
- HT Traders Tupelo Honey
- Kroger Pure Clover Honey
- Market Pantry Pure Honey
- Mel-O 100% Pure Honey
- Natural Sue Bee Clover Honey
- Naturally Preferred Fireweed Honey
- Rite Aid Honey
- Safeway Clover Honey
- Silver Bow Pure Honey
- Stop and Shop Clover Honey
- Sue Bee Clover Honey
- Thrifty Bee Honey
- Valutime Honey
- Walgreen Mel-O Honey
- Western Family Clover Honey
- Wegman Clover Honey
- Winnie the Pooh, Pure Clover
So, where does this leave today’s consumer? Honey has a long history of providing everything from a number of vitamins and minerals to being an excellent remedy for skin rashes, infections and other ailments. Fortunately, with a little information and taking the time to source your honey, it is possible to get real honey that has not been contaminated or ultra-filtered. Consider purchasing local honey from a farm stand or farmer’s market. Raw honey is another safe bet because it is obviously not highly processed and filtered, it doesn't even look like the clear amber liquid purchased as honey in most supermarkets.
Of course, if you must buy your honey at a grocery store, try to only purchase honey labeled as organic. Many of the samples labeled “organic” and tested by Food Safety News actually contained pollen. In fact, 71% had high pollen counts, but it was all produced in Brazil, according to its label. While getting pure, unadulterated honey is important, many health benefits are achieved by using honey that is produced as close to where you live as possible. This is especially true for people with allergies.
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