The Not-So-Sweet Truth about Honey

February 3rd, 2014 · No Comments · Conscious Living, Healthy Living, home remedy

honey-100168340Using food to heal your body and to act as a medicine is something we at Hanna’s Herb Shop don’t shy away from. With hundreds of remedies and recipes from Hanna using items that can be found in a cupboard or refrigerator, we’re always eager to treat our sniffles and sneezes or bumps and bruises with something wholesome and natural. Honey is a shining star in many of Hanna’s remedies with food, from increasing energy to boosting the immune system or healing acne, Hanna showed us how honey can benefit the body from the inside out. While the ability to use honey as a natural remedy is great news, there’s some shocking research being done on honey sold in the US. What if the honey you’re ingesting isn’t really honey and is instead chemical laden sugar syrup with color added or, worse yet, laced with lead and antibiotics? Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs, and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia to test the beloved sweet stuff and what they found is less than appetizing and most certainly isn’t a healing ingredient. Learn more about current research and the dangers to your health posed by honey imposters as well as how to make safe choices at the grocer below.

bee-on-flower-10062553The process of making honey involves quite a bit of work from busy honeybees but the steps can be broken down into two main sections: bees travel from flower to flower gathering nectar and return with it to the hive. The magical step that follows includes hundreds of bees flapping their wings and helping to remove water content from the nectar in order to create honey. Pretty impressive stuff, right? 

All around the world bees are constantly working to make honey and the FDA gives a simple definition of what honey actually is: If “honey” has been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen, it cannot be labelled as honey. Seems simple enough but worldwide, there are some sneaky tricks being played in order to conceal the fact that what’s in the adorable honey bear isn’t actually honey. It’s important to note here that when pollen is no longer found in the substance labelled as honey, it become impossible to trace its origins. Honey that originated in China that has been ultra-filtered and stripped of its pollen could be labelled as honey from Any Town, USA and we’d have no way to disprove that statement. That’s dangerous business. 

1216288467ZZ9moQSo what’s this got to do with the honey that is showing up in America and being ingested? Of the 60 jars, jugs, and plastic bears Food Safety News purchased and tested they found that:

  • 76% of the samples bought in grocery store chains had all of the pollen removed.
  • 100% of the samples purchased from drugstores had no pollen.
  • 77% of the samples from big box stores contained no pollen.
  • 100% of the samples from individual packet portions had all the pollen removed.

From those samples there weren’t many that remained that could be truly labelled as “honey” but those purchased from local bee keepers, from natural and organic markets, or from farmer’s markets contained the pollen and had not been ultra-filtered or tampered with. 

While mislabeling a product as honey when it doesn’t contain pollen isn’t a threat to anyone’s health, there is a direct connection between mislabeling and mismanagement of imported honey with traces of lead, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides, as well as product imported under the guise of honey that is in fact sugar with food coloring. 

honey-11163033Americans love their honey–in the US we consume about 400 million pounds of honey per year and that makes for busy bees. Because the demand is so high in America and American bees and bee keepers can’t keep up, importing the product from other countries is a logical solution to satisfy our sweet teeth. While honey is produced worldwide, China remains at the top of the list for honey producing countries and has so much of it to supply to the world that it’s often referred to as “dirt cheap”. Sounds like a good deal for the consumer on the other end at first glance but it has actually caused issues with American bee keepers (putting them out of business for not being able to provide honey at such a low cost), as well as the health of American citizens. Why does Chinese honey have such a bad reputation? Here are some simple points to a complex problem: Chinese honey contains traces of an antibiotic known as chloramphenicol which is used to kill a bacteria that impacts bee health. Children given chloramphenicol as an antibiotic are susceptible to DNA damage and carcinogenicity. The FDA has banned this antibiotic and Chinese honey containing it. 

Regulations on insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides are not as they should be concerning Chinese honey and traces of each are present.

Chinese honey that is tested, more often than not, contains heavy metals like lead. Heavy metals are harmful contaminants that accumulate in the body and can cause neurological damage. 

Some Chinese honey is actually sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, barley malt sweetener, or other additives with a bit of actual honey. According to Time magazine, in recent years, many shippers have eliminated the honey completely and just use thickened, colored, natural or chemical sweeteners labelled as honey. 

So the honey isn’t honey and is instead sugar… that’s bad enough but considering the health concerns that arise from ingesting antibiotics, chloramphenicol or insecticides, Americans should be paying closer attention to what they’re buying. 

As it stands currently Chinese honey is being smuggled into the country by questionable means including something coined “honey laundering” where the product is shipped from China to India and then to the US to conceal its origin. The only way to be certain that you are ingesting pure honey is to buy local from a bee keeper directly or at a farmer’s market or to shop for honey in a natural food store with brands you can trust with an organic label. 

The products we buy act as a sort of vote to the producers. When you purchase “dirt cheap” and chemical laden adulterated honey, you’re telling the companies that bottled it that you agree with this practice and you’re telling the store you’ve purchased it from that you agree with it being stocked on the shelves. Use your dollars as your voice and stop purchasing “honey” from China and instead support locally and get a taste of what the bees have been working so hard to create. 


Find a local Farmer’s Market

Read about the American Beekeeper’s Federation


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