Honey. Who doesn’t like honey? From Winnie the Pooh to “natural foods” fans, honey has many fans. But a new study shows that what you are getting labeled as “honey” at the supermarket may not honey at all. Indeed, more than three fourth of all the honey sold at supermarkets and big box stores and all the honey sold at drugstores does not qualify as “honey’ under international standards.
For honey to be considered honey, it needs to have pollen in it. The pollen allows experts to identify where the honey came from, everything from the region of the world it was harvested to the flowers the bees fed from. But most of the honey in the market has had its pollen removed, through a process called “ultra filtration”. The main reason for ultra filtering honey seems to be to hide its origin. China is a huge producer of honey, but Chinese honey is kept out of the US market. To get around that, Chinese companies sell their honey to American distributors through representatives in other countries. By removing the pollen, they make sure the honey cannot be traced back to them.
The problem with Chinese honey is that some of it is adulterated with animal antibiotics (which can be harmful to some people), heavy metals and even other “extenders” such as corn syrup and other sweeteners. You think you are paying for honey – and honey is not cheap – and you are getting other stuff instead.
There is a way around this, however. The honey sold at farmers markets, co-ops and, more importantly for me, Trader Joe’s is all honey full of pollen. I know where I’ll be buying my honey from now on!