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The Great Raw Honey Deception

store honey pollen test

Image source: CNN.com

Honey may have increased in popularity with the growing demand for natural food, but a missing key ingredient from the sticky substance could create unhealthy consequences for some consumers.

A total of 76 percent of all store-bought honey in the US has had its pollen filtered out, according a test conducted for Food Safety News. One hundred percent of the honey tested from drug stores Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy was missing pollen. The FDA says if honey has been filtered so much it doesn’t contain pollen, it isn’t honey.

The National Honey Board says honey sales experienced a 16 percent increase among surveyed U.S. consumers in 2013. More people also claimed to believe honey is healthy, while 70 percent of users referred to the importance of consuming “pure” honey.

“Food historians say that in the 1950s the typical grocery might have offered three or four different brands of honey,” reported Food Safety News. “Today, a fair-sized store will offer 40 to 50 different types, flavors and sources of honey out of the estimated 300 different honeys made in the United States.”

But with honey’s growing popularity comes the increased potential for substandard practices from some producers.

Food Safety News partnered with Texas A&M University professor Vaughn Bryant to conduct extensive research on a variety of honey brands.

A Guide To Creating, Harvesting, And Cooking With Natural Honeys

Pollen consists of substances such as vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins that are located inside a flower. Bees collect these particles, which are naturally found in honey.

“Raw honey is thought to have many medicinal properties,” dietician Kathy Egan told Food Safety News. ”Stomach ailments, anemia and allergies are just a few of the conditions that may be improved by consumption of unprocessed honey.”

Filtering pollen from honey is deemed unacceptable by world food safety agencies. Yet many honey producers strain the pollen from the honey, as pollen acts as a link to where the honey was produced.

“Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey,” Food Safety News said. “It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibodies – on the U.S. market for years.”

Through evaluating pollen, researchers have discovered that some Chinese honey contains illegal animal antibiotics that can be fatal to a small number of people. In order to continue selling their products, some Chinese honey producers reportedly remove the pollen from their honey and mislabel their products before shipping the honey to other countries, including the United States.

Story continues below video.

Food Safety News added that some honey producers from the United States admit to filtering the pollen out of their honey, if only to extend the shelf life of the product.

As a result, most of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores has been found to contain no traces pollen. Bottles also contained little information about the source of the honey and were often wrongly labeled.

“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,” Food Safety News said.

While some organic honey lacks pollen, the news organization said that most organic brands do not filter the pollen. The organic brands tested were produced in Brazil.

According to the pollen tests conducted Bryant, honey sold at farmers markets and natural stores also contained pollen. In addition, purchasing honey directly from a beekeeper would help ensure the honey derived from safe sources, the site reported.

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4 comments

  1. Thank you for supporting Small scale beekeeping

  2. Jablowmey, Heywood

    “The FDA says if honey has been filtered so much it doesn’t contain pollen, it isn’t honey.”

    The above statement is *completely* untrue, false, a lie.

    Pollen is collected and used by the bees as a protein source essential for brood-rearing. The fact that grains of pollen may be found in honey is incidental and accidental, it is in no way a necessary or required component and is not used to *make* the honey. It is the enzymes in the bees’ honey stomach that makes honey ‘honey’. Pollen gets into the honey when it unintentionally falls during the transfer of the nectar.

    Pollen and other contaminants are routinely filtered out by commercial honey producers because US consumers prefer it that way. Most consumers want honey that is clean and clear, and that does not crystallize. The presence of pollen and other contaminants causes honey to crystallize more rapidly. Honey that has had the pollen and other contaminants removed is still honey.

    It is true that analysis of pollen can provide clues as to the source of the honey, and it is true that some foreign producers have resorted to ultra-filtration in order to disguise the source to facilitate dumping and avoiding import tariffs. However, honey with the pollen (and other contaminants) filtered out is still pure honey. In fact, it is arguably more pure than non-filtered honey. The fact that *some* people are of the opinion that the presence of pollen in honey is desirable and beneficial is *completely* irrelevant.

    While I cannot say if the false statements contained in this article are due to ignorance, or due to intentional deception and/or sensationalism, the fact remains that such irresponsible ‘reporting’ severely damages your credibility. How can anyone trust anything else that appears here?

    Disclaimer: I am a small-scale beekeeper producing raw, natural, unfiltered honey for my local market area. I have absolutely nothing to gain by defending the practices of large-scale commercial producers. I do, however, get a bee in my bonnet when people such as yourselves make false statements, whether due to careless ignorance or due to intentional deception and sensationalism. Such practices damage your credibility and do the general public an extreme disservice.

    • Amen! A nicely and well-worded response.

      I know that for most people with an interest in trace amounts of pollen in their honey, it’s because they have heard that it helps with allergies. But, that only is true of local honey, where the pollen is from local plants that are causing the allergies. And even then, I’m not a hundred percent certain whether this has ever been “proven” or “disproven” with any unbiased scientific study.

  3. your comment is reasoned well thought out and informed thank you!

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