Most Store-Bought Honey Isn't Honey At All, Tests Show
Recent testing comes as a bit of a buzz kill if you love natural honey. More than 75 percent of the honey sold in the U.S. isn't the unadulterated form of the natural sweetener that most consumers expect, according to testing performed recently by Food Safety News. In fact, most honey sold in the United States is processed through major filtration that removes virtually all of the pollen naturally occurring in the product. This practice would flunk quality standards in many of the world's food safety agencies; in other words, it's not technically honey anymore.
The problem with removing these microscopic pollen particles is this: without the pollen, there's really no way to trace where the honey originated, or if the source is safe and uncontaminated. (Previous reports have found honey laced with antibiotics and heavy metals.) And for this filtration to work, the honey is often heated, which can damage some of the natural products' disease-fighting properties.
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To analyze the state of honey sold in America, Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs, and plastic bears of honey in supermarkets, discount warehouses, big box stores, pharmacies, and honey packets served in mini-markets and fast-food joints in 10 states and the District of Columbia. An expert in pollen in honey from Texas A&M University studied the samples and found most had the pollen removed, making traceability impossible. However, honey sold at farmer's markets, co-ops, and natural stores contained normal amounts of pollen. (Read the entire report.)
The Workaround: If you want real honey, look for local sources and buy directly from the beekeeper. By knowing where your food comes from, you can ask about how the bees are treated and how the honey is processed. Sure, raw honey might not be crystal clear like the little honey bear bottles you see in the store, but it's swimming in health-promoting antioxidants and left in its natural form, which is definitely a good thing when it comes to honey.
For an in-depth look inside the honey industry, check out the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees: