A Tale of Two Honeys

Posted by
November 15, 2011

By James J. Gormley

According to tests conducted for Food Safety News, over 75 percent of the “honey” sold in U.S. grocery stores … isn’t.

Findings showed that the pollen is typically filtered out, this despite the fact that the food safety arms of the European Commission, the World Health Organization and other bodies have “ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.”

Ultra-filtration is a synthetic process which involves heating honey, sometimes watering it down, and then shooting it through filters using high pressure to remove the pollen.

According to Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association (AHPA) in an interview with Food Identity Theft:

“The honey that is ultra-filtered is often synthetically produced, put in huge vats and trans-shipped so that certain countries, like China, can avoid anti-dumping laws and tariffs, by shipping to another country as an intermediary, such as India. Without the pollen, you don’t know where it came from, so anything can be put on the label.”

Jensen told Food Safety News that it is “pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it’s even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law,” via the trans-shipping practice known as “honey laundering.”

In the meantime, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not seen fit to establish an official standard of identity for honey, despite the fact that occasional inspections have uncovered Chinese honey contaminated with chloramphenicol, a powerful veterinary antibiotic that can cause permanent bone marrow and liver damage in humans.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is one of more than 20 U.S. senators and members of Congress of both parties who have repeatedly asked the FDA to create a federal “pure honey” standard, but to date these requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, the best bet for consumers is to seek out honey at health food stores, farmers markets, food co-ops and stores such as Trader Joe’s, one of the few stores which passed the testing with flying colors: its honey is actually honey!