Most honey sold in big chain stores or single-serving packets does not meet FDA requirements for honey. Image: Flickr / vibrantspirit / CC-BY-SA

The Food and Drug Administration in the United States lays out requirements for what can be labeled “honey.” Independent tests, however, have found that as much as 75 percent of honey in the United States does not meet FDA requirements and could potentially be dangerous.

Independently testing honey

The Food and Drug administration requirements for honey include the requirement that honey include pollen, which is naturally found in honey. Food safety advocate Food Safety News hired an independent lab to test the honey available on grocery store shelves. The tests were looking for the components of honey, as well as comparing the available honey to the safety and quality standards of the US and most other food-safety agencies. Vaughn Bryant, who is one of the premier honey-and-pollen experts, analyzed 60 samples of commercially available honey.

Most honey does not qualify

Of the honey samples tested, more than 75 percent consistently tested as not meeting food-safety standards. The majority of this honey contained no pollen and a significant portion of it contained artificially manufactured syrup made from corn, rice or barley. The tests did not cover any of the honey that is imported and used in baked goods or processed foods.

The problem with pollen

Pollen is the identifying element in most honey. Pollen not only provides many of the health benefits of honey, it also provides a way for the provenance and source of the honey to be tracked. There is a process called “ultra-filtering” that heats, liquifies and filters honey to the point it contains no pollen and no identifying characteristics. At this point, honey can be cut with less expensive syrups without being obvious. Traditional filtering removes foreign items from honey without removing the pollen. This ultra-processed honey also lasts longer on store shelves and is more clear, which tends to sell better in most grocery stores.

Hiding the danger in honey

The pollen that helps track the provenance of honey can also provide an indicator for possible dangers in honey. Some areas of the world have honey that is contaminated with heavy metals, antibiotics and pesticides. Less expensive honey is often “laundered” with ultra-filtering, then imported into the United States. The only sources that the tests found to have reliable quality were honeys from “natural” and “organic” food stores and farmer’s markets.


LA Weekly: http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/2011/11/honey_fda_pollen_food_safety_news.php
Ag Info: http://www.aginfo.net/index.cfm/event/report/id/Line-on-Agriculture-20629
Gothamist: http://gothamist.com/2011/11/13/study_most_honey_is_just_fake_polle.php
Food Safety News http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/

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