What’s Wrong with Store Bought Honey?

by Ann Marie Michaels on October 2, 2013

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What's Wrong with Store Bought Honey?

It’s October, and as we enter autumn with its warm and vibrant colors, the season usually calls for something sweet. Rather than using refined white or brown sugar, which isn’t nutritious, it’s always better to use raw, organic honey as a substitute.

Honey may not seem as sweet as white sugar or high fructose corn syrup, but it’s loaded with minerals and nutrients that have many health benefits, including the prevention or cure of allergies, anemia and digestive problems.

But did you know that chances are that the honey you buy on the shelves at the grocery store isn’t even real honey? Intensively filtered processed honey does not provide the health benefits of the real thing, and in fact can present a danger to your health.

What’s Wrong with Store Bought Honey?

Honey that has been filtered to the point where there is no pollen content is not the pure stuff made by bees. Filtering processes include heating honey, watering it down, and pushing it through extremely small filters in order to extract pollen. The pollen is extracted from the honey, usually in products made in China or India, in order to hide the origin of the honey in order to sell it in other markets, such as in the United States. The only way to track where honey is made is through the pollen content.

Honey from China is notorious for being watered-down, filled with antibiotics, heavy metals and other substances that are not only unhealthy but can be dangerous. Some honey from China and India have been banned throughout Europe for this reason. However, they are imported into the U.S. with minimal inspection (5% or less of imported honey is inspected), where they are sold on the shelves as “honey”.

Most Store Bought Honey Isn’t Real

Tests have shown that 76% of honey sold on grocery store shelves is impure, not real honey, and contain low pollen content. In some stores and at restaurant food chains such as McDonalds and KFC, there was a 100% lack of pollen. That is tantamount to zero health benefits.

A study conducted by Vaughan Brant from A&M University in Texas broke it down like this:

•76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.

•100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.

•77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.

•100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.

•Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.

Why Filter at All?

You might ask why producers bother to filter honey at all. The basic answer given is that they want to sell the product and its assumed that American consumers want their honey to be clear, and without various bee parts mixed in.

Traditional filtering processes are apparently capable of filtering excess material without getting rid of the pollen, however. A more likely reason for extremely filtered honey is that without pollen, it isn’t traceable, and honey from China is cheaper than from U.S. sources.

So ultimately, profit is the engine leading to honey that is not only almost completely barren of nutritional value sold on the shelves, but honey that might contain animal antibiotics, heavy metals and other ingredients that could present a health risk to a vulnerable percentage of the population.

Where to Find Real Honey

Using raw honey or pure maple syrup in your recipes can potentially stave off allergies, and provide you and your family with the nutrients you need. But it’s necessary to choose your source of honey wisely.

The best solution is to go to the alternatives and buy honey locally. Raw honey can be found at most farmer’s markets. It’s the real stuff, filled with pollen, rich and dense with nutritional value, and very sweet as well.

Honey with an organic label from your local grocery is good, too. A good choice is this organic honey.

Sources: Food Safety News
Photo: Honey

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Vita @VitaLivesFree October 3, 2013 at 4:34 AM

Great post! I’ve always known store-bought honey isn’t good but it was interesting to read about the reasons for that. I always do my best to source locally. Right now we have honey made in the mountains above our town – it’s dark, thick and tastes super rich. A bit like caramel. :-) When I was growing up, my dad used to buy a lot of honey from a local bee-keeper and it used to last us us a whole year.

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Rebecca October 3, 2013 at 5:04 AM

In the first sentence of your second paragraph you state that honey contains good fats.

Honey contains NO FAT at all. Can you please substantiate that claim? I love most of what you write but it is hard to believe certain things that are somewhat out there, when there are discrepancies. Thanks.

“Honey may not seem as sweet as white sugar or high fructose corn syrup, but it contains good fats and it’s loaded with minerals and nutrients that have many health benefits, including the prevention or cure of allergies, anemia and digestive problems.”

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kenn32 January 3, 2014 at 8:57 PM

I see the statement has been updated with no comments about fats in honey. Actually, unfiltered raw honey would likely contain some tiny amount of fat, depending how much beeswax remains in solution with the honey. Nutrition facts from a label on comb honey states that a 5 gram serving contains 0.2 grams of fat. Don’t forget that candles are made from beeswax, with the wax (fat) being the fuel. No difference with using something like coconut oil or lard as the fuel in a candle, with both of those being fats.

Also, various pollens do have fatty acid profiles which would likely relate to health benefits in raw honey.

http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/20090428_39

Ken

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Julie October 3, 2013 at 5:45 AM

Another reason not to buy commercially processed honey is how bees are mistreated. Do you know that the conditions of bees are as bad, if not worse than animals in feedlots? The industry ships bees all over the country, raises queens in laboratories, and uses leaf blowers in order to extract their honey. The bees are also given sugar water instead of being allowed to feed on their own honey. This treatment is one part of the bee crisis that needs to stop. More of us should keep hives throughout our land in order to propagate the natural pollination of the bees. Pesticides and roundup ready plants are partly to blame for the crisis to our bees and many essential insects. Thanks Ann Marie for pointing out the nutritional deficit of honey raised commercially. For so many reasons we need to buy local raw honey and pay the extra price.

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EC October 3, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Most are given HFCS now instead of sugar.

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Kat K October 28, 2013 at 7:07 AM

You need to assume that industrial bees are given either corn syrup or HFCS. Its cheaper than sugar and easier for the beekeeper. Obviously both are GMO, as is any non organic “sugar” that may be made into sugar water.

Again, talk to your beekeeper. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Then go plant some bee friendly plants in your own yard, and for Bee’s sake, DO NOT SPRAY the plants.

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EC October 3, 2013 at 9:48 AM

We had a big scandal in our state with a major organic honey seller who was buying Chinese synthetic “honey” and mixing in a small amount of raw honey. I would not buy any honey in a store, organic or not.

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Karen October 3, 2013 at 2:19 PM

My local bee farmer sells pollen. Do you recommend taking pollen as a supplement?

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Thien October 4, 2013 at 1:28 PM

We keep 150 hives in South Texas and while we have bees on organic certified farms, we have yet to figure out how one harvests “organic honey” as bees have their own minds and can forage up to 3 miles aways from their hive and so you cannot control where they go and what they bring back to the hives. All you can do as responsible beekeepers is to verify that no one within a certain radius is using pesticides of any sort. We are fortunate in that we have ten plus bee yards that are on private properties where threats to the bees are limited or nonexistent. And I would caution that there are honey providers at farmers markets that are not actually beekeepers themselves so always ask if they keep the bees, harvest the honey, etc. People at our markets think nothing of asking a producer farmer how they tend their gardens, or a beef rancher or chicken farmer how they keep their animals, but they just assume all honeys at markets are pure, raw and came from a beekeeper. Have a dialogue.

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CB October 8, 2013 at 4:53 PM

Yes, this is all may be true but unfiltered honey can cause big issues for people like me who have compromised immune systems. It can also cause sickness in those who have no health issues. It’s kind of like the pasteurizing of juices & milk. It’s for our safety & intended to kill any bacteria/fungus that could cause us harm.

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Ady October 8, 2013 at 5:08 PM

I’ve always wondered what the consistency of honey should be. I buy “raw” honey and is solid, but I’ve found some that claim to be raw and they are liquid. How do I know is raw/pure? Also, color is very different. The solid one I get is light but the liquid one from the farmer’s market is dark. They say color change depending of what they eat. Would love to know how to identify good real honey. Solid? Liquid? Light? Dark? Thanks!

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leo3 October 12, 2013 at 4:22 AM

The title of this piece is misleading; not all store-bought honey is wrong. You say so yourself at the end of the piece. We need to say what’s so and be mindful.

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Aimee & Clint January 5, 2014 at 6:28 PM

We always buy raw honey and love seeing it at the markets, from local producers, because it’s local, it’s cheaper and often fresher. We’ve recently found a farmer at a local market that labels his honey ‘cold-extracted’ so we know it’s not heated, awesome!

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