Honey: one of many great reasons to get into beekeeping. Click on links above to learn about extracting, cooking, buying local, & making assorted products. Below, read about labeling regulations, honey news, & more. . . .
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Honey Labeling Regulations:
The National Honey Board has several very informative pages on their website that cover the following issues:
Filtering pollen out of honey: still honey?
Read about the controversy:
"Grocery Store Honey Isn’t Actually Honey, Tests Show": 7 Nov. 2011, by Elizabeth Nolan Brown.
"When is honey not honey? When you buy it at an American grocery store, apparently—the majority of honey sold in U.S. supermarkets and drugstores has been processed into nutritional oblivion, according to Food Safety News. In fact, it’s been so ultra-filtered it doesn’t even meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s standards to be considered honey.
"Testing of more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey found 76% was entirely free of bee pollen, which is what gives honey many of its vast medicinal and nutritional properties. Any product that’s had the pollen filtered completely out of it isn’t actually considered honey, according to the FDA. Without the pollen, that honey you’re buying is nothing more than sweet-tasting syrup. . . . "
Read more: http://www.blisstree.com/2011/11/07/food/grocery-store-honey-isnt-actually-honey-tests-show-898/#ixzz2JD4ny0be.
“Your Honey Isn’t Honey”: FoodRenegade.com.
Many already know that much commercially available honey would more accurately be called honey-flavored corn syrup. Both the FDA and the WorldHealth Organization agree that only the “presence of pollen” “authenticates honey.” As noted above, Food Safety News, in a test of 60 commercial samples, found that 76% contained no pollen at all, and that at “drug stores like Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS, the failure rate went as high as 100%.” To read the original 2011 FSN study, visit: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/#.UdC0rUbn_IU.)
Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers’ Association, notes that the extreme filtration needed to eliminate pollen – a “high-temperature, high-pressure” process that goes far beyond ordinary filtering to screen out bee parts and wax – is both costly and destructive to quality. For that reason, he can’t imagine that U.S. producers would choose such methods: “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.”
Chinese honey, according to the FoodRenegade, “is cheap, diluted with high-fructose corn syrup and sweeteners, and tainted with crazy chemicals and antibiotics.” We know how Varroa destructor mites came here from Asia, but evidently American foulbrood hit China in 2001. Chinese beekeepers treated with potent antiobiotics, “including chloramphenicol — a carcinogenic antibiotic that’s been banned by the FDA. As recently as 2010, the FDA confiscated $32,000 worth of imported Chinese honey that was contaminated with this drug.” However, since approximately 5% of honey from abroad gets tested by the FDA, U.S. supermarkets may be harboring many tainted bears on their shelves. Making matters worse, much Chinese honey is contaminated by lead, since small scale honey producers in China “use small, unlined, lead-soldered drums to collect and store the honey before it is collected by the brokers for processing.”
In 2001, the Federal Trade Commission hiked tariffs on Chinese honey, but the products still enter the U.S. through middleman nations. Food Renegade alleges that “honey suppliers are ultra-filtering their so-called honey to hide its origins.” Although U.S. District Attorneys carried out a successful honey sting operation, arresting brokers connected to ALW, “the largest honey importer in the U.S., began networking with Chinese honey producers and brokers desperate to unload cheap products. In exchange for contracts with ALW, honey brokers agreed to move Chinese-origin honey to Russia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, according to court documents.” The story reads like it ought to be a feature film, with Sandra Bullock as an intrepid ICE agent busting underworld honey brokers. Come to think of it, a script like that might pay for a lot of package bees. . . .
To read the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement account of the 2011 sting, visit: http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1102/110217chicago.htm. To read the full FoodRenegade blog, visit: http://www.foodrenegade.com/your-honey-isnt-honey/.
“The Story of Honey”
– a new video from the National Honey Board
This video aims to debunk stories that excessive filtration makes honey less authentic and to argue against the idea that pollen should be part of honey. Commercial beekeepers explain how they filter honey to remove all foreign particles, including pollen.
To view the 6 minute video, visit: http://www.storyofhoney.com/.
To read the full press release, visit: http://storyofhoney.com/pdfs/NHB_NationalHoneyBoardPressRelease.pdf.
Responses from readers would be welcome!
“Bees Producing Blue and Green Honey: Are M&M’s to Blame?”
Oct. 4, ABC News.com: This fall, honey bees in the Alsace region of France produced blue and green honey. Investigators traced the phenomenon to a biogas plant that breaks down wastes from a Mars plant, and it seems that bees sampled the runoff. Though Mars is promising to fix its waste storage process, it’s too late to help beekeepers in the region, who have had a poor year for honey yield. For more details, click here. Complete URL: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/10/bees-producing-blue-and-green-honey-are-mms-to-blame/.
For information about the poor 2012 honey harvest across Europe, see Hannah Briggs’ Sept 27 article, “Honey Suffers After Bad Year for Bees”: click here. Complete URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/0/19585638.
Below, honey marketed in U.S. grocery stories (Food Safety News). See story at left on challenges to authenticity of commercial honey in the U.S. and response from the National Honey Board.
Below, "Honey ~ Nature's Sweetener"
(National Honey Board)
Below, honey bear (photo by Jamie Cheung)
Below, a world map of honey trafficking (Bloomberg.com)
See our "Bees in the News" page for more honey news.
Below, blue & green comb in Ribeauville, France, yields green honey
(photos by Andre Frieh):