Interesting Information: March 22, 2012
With the new Ipod, I was listening to NPR the other day–the Kojo Nnamdi show on March 15, 2012–when Kojo did about a 20 minute story on honey laundering.
I was shocked! Who knew that there is massive corruption in the honey business? (Google Kojo Nnamdi, NPR, and “honey laundering” to turn up this episode and the others Kojo has done.)
I knew that most commercial honey was a waste of money since it’s been so heated that all its nutrients have been killed. But, I didn’t know that it’s been cut with fake syrup that is chemically concocted to taste like honey. This dead, adulturated honey is little better than high fructose corn syrup. More than 3/4 of the honey sold in the US isn’t what bees produce. What’s missing is the pollen that makes the honey…honey. The lack of pollen means also that one can’t determine where the honey came from.
There are four culprits involved: the Chinese, our own honey middlemen, our retailers who carry this honey, and the FDA. And if you want to read the whole sorry tale with all it’s details AND a list of many worthless honey brands, go to Food Safety News: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isn’t-honey/. I suppose we should add clueless consumers to this list of culprits–so now that you know…
The Chinese use an ultra-filtering procedure where, as Food Safety News describes, “honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the geographical source of the honey.” This procedure has allowed the Chinese to illegally dump “tons of their honey–some containing illegal antibiotics–on the U.S. market for years.” Of course, this fake honey is ridiculously cheap.
In 2001, the Federal Trade Commission imposed a stiff import tariff on Chinese honey. The Chinese just sent the honey to other countries and sent it to the US from those countries–after changing the color of the shipping drums, the documents and the labels. This process is why this honey is called “laundered” honey.
Food Safety News notes that the US imported 208 million pounds of honey over the past 18 months–60% of which came from Asian countries which are traditional laundering points for honey. India, alone, sent in 45 million pounds of honey.
Our own honey middlemen also use this ultra-filtering procedure on US honey because it extends shelf life and because customers have been conditioned to want “clean” honey that is crystal clear. No one knows if some of these middlemen are cutting the honey they have killed with syrup… But let’s be very clear about this cleanliness thing: Real honey with all its medicinal and health properties is NOT crystal clear. It can be very clean looking when extracted in a centrifuge and, then, strained through a mesh, but it might have tiny bits of wax and/or pollen intact. That’s the GOOD stuff in the honey.
And, our retailers must know what they are selling isn’t real honey. As do companies like Sara Lee and J. M. Smuckers, who use this imported honey in their products.
As for the FDA, it has refused to “define” what honey is for years now. Defining honey would be pretty simple according to John Ambrose, a professor and entomologist at North Carolina State University and apiculturist, or bee expert. The honey definition should say that honey comes from bees and that nothing has been added or removed. (Some industrial types evaporate the moisture out of honey.)
Since the FDA has refused to act, American beekeepers are working to get individual states to pass laws that define what honey should be. So far, Florida, California, Wisconsin, and North Carolina have passed laws. Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Texas, Kansas, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia are among the states working to pass honey-definition laws.
Food Safety News purchased more than 60 “jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia” and had Vaughn Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and “one of the nation’s premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey,” test each one. Bryant found that 76% of the samples had all the pollen removed. These samples came from stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant, Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop, and King Soopers. Bryant found that grocery brands labeled “organic” stood a better chance of still containing pollen. All of the organic honey Bryant tested came from Brazil.
Here’s more of what Bryant found:
100 % of honey from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmace had no pollen
77% of honey from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had no pollen
100 % of honey packed in small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had no pollen
But, EVERY ONE of the samples from farmers markets, co-ops, and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the “full, anticipated amount of pollen.”
Why is it so important to retain the pollen in honey? It’s where the healing possibilities are located–maybe in some combination with ingredients in the honey that we don’t even know. Dr. Josept Mercola’s web site has a number of articles on the healing properties of honey. Real honey with all its pollen can heal wounds and can heal infections like MRSA. Two articles to look for are “The Sweet Golden Treat That Can Help Wipe Out Deadly MRSA” and “The Honey You Should Never Buy–It May Be Tainted with Lead and Antibiotics.” See http://articles.mercola.com.
DO NOT USE dead honey to treat wounds; it can make them worse.
BUY LOCAL HONEY. We buy almost 100 pounds of local honey a year.
Tell your local stores you want REAL honey and won’t buy fake honey. Tell everyone you know NOT to think that this fake honey is good for them. It isn’t.