Before we get into this, yes raw honey is ridiculously expensive. No matter how many times I tell my mom what I spent on honey, she’s always in shock like this is brand new information that her crazy daughter spent $16.50 on a tiny mason jar of honey.
But honey is amazing. It is the only food that will never spoil; you can freeze it, refrigerate it, leave it out and it won’t turn. It’s a healthy, natural sweetener that can be used as a sugar substitute and has great medicinal properties, such as healing stomach ailments. Adding raw LOCAL honey to your diet can also help build up a resistance to allergies since it contains the same pollen.
Unfortunately, not all honey is created equally. Well, it’s not all processed and sold equally….
A 2011 study showed that more than three quarters of honey sold in US grocery stories isn’t actually honey since it contains no pollen.
A process called ultra-filtering, in which honey is heated, often watered down, and forced through small filters, removes the pollen. This process leaves the honey looking syrupy (like we see in supermarket bear bottles) and diminishes the quality of the honey, as it destroys the naturally occurring enzymes and antioxidants.
There’s really only one (not-so-good) reason to do this: to mask where the honey came from, and that is likely China, which has illegally dumped tons of their honey – much of it laced with illegal antibiotics, pesticides, and heavy metal contamination – on the U.S. market for years. Dozens of world safety organizations, including the World Health Organization and the European Commission have ruled that “without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.”
In 2001, the FTC imposed hefty taxes on China to prevent cheap, Chinese honey from flooding the market and putting American beekeepers out of business. The Chinese began transshipping the honey through other countries, changing the colors of the shipping drums and labels to indicate that it came from a tariff free country. In 2010-11, 208 million pounds of honey were imported to the US: 60 percent of it from Asian countries, such as India, that are known laundering sites for Chinese honey.
There are very few packers who are willing to pay the price tag of having their honey inspected for origin; especially since the ultra-filtering process thwarts these efforts anyway, leaving us with no way of knowing where this product, which is readily available in every supermarket and drugstore, came from.
The FDA isn’t doing much about it, either. They do not require packages to disclose floral sources and devote almost no resources on inspecting imported honey. In fact, the current definition of honey simply states that it is a sweet, syrupy substance that “bees make from the nectar of flowers and store in honeycombs”
If the FDA isn’t going to do anything about this, we need to. Especially now, considering the honey bee crisis. Americans still consume nearly 400 million pounds of honey annually. As our own honey bee population becomes decimated, the issue of counterfeit honey will become more and more prominent as demand outpaces supply. When beekeeping stops being profitable, the result is fewer hives, fewer bees, and fewer food crops getting pollinated. This will result in extraordinarily high produce prices and, ultimately, a food shortage.
But anyway, enough research… vote with your dollars and buy only raw, local honey. Help the farmers and the bees!!