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.
“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.
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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.