Honey, often referred to as “liquid gold,” houses a wide range of vitamins and minerals. It is a natural and healthier alternative to sugar to sweeten things up. It kills bacteria, viruses and fungi. It also lowers cholesterol and inflammation.
However, to reap all of honey’s benefits, you should always buy local and organic, which comes from bees rather than from a factory. According to Food Safety News, more than 75 percent of honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t actually the same thing honey bees produce.
They sent over 60 different jars bought in 10 states and the District of Columbia to premier melissopalynologist and professor at Texas A&M University, Vaughn Bryant. They found the market to be flooded with fake Indian or Chinese honey which is banned in Europe for safety reasons. It is often contaminated with antibiotics or heavy metals, and doesn’t contain any trace of pollen.
“Any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey,” states the FDA. However, nothing seems to be done about it, and fake, processed honey is still sold in grocery stores all over the U.S.
In the normal honey-making process, honey is filtered to remove contaminants, such as bee parts, waxes and other impurities. Nothing wrong there; nobody wants to chew on bee parts or wax, right?
Ultra-filtration, a technique refined by the Chinese, is a high-tech procedure in which honey is heated and pushed through extremely fine filters at high pressure. This technique not only removes contaminants, but pushes out the pollen and many other beneficial vitamins, minerals and enzymes, too.
Why would a company go through all these expensive filtration steps to end up with an inferior product, ripped of all its nutrients?
“Removal of all pollen from honey ‘makes no sense’ and is completely contrary to marketing the highest quality product possible,” Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, told Food Safety News.
China is known to produce cheap honey diluted with inexpensive sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup. Many countries have banned Chinese honey, as it is all too often contaminated with antibiotics and heavy metals.
After a few big scandals, the U.S. decided to pose higher taxes on Chinese honey to push U.S. companies to buy real, locally produced honey.
But there is no stopping it. Chinese honey producers now launder their cheap, fake honey to another country, before shipping it to the U.S. In doing so, they avoid the higher import taxes, making it still cheaper than honey produced in the U.S.
To cover up this dirty honey laundering secret, ultra-filtration is needed. Pollen serves as a fingerprint; it can tell you exactly where the honey came from, and would trace it all the way back to China.
“We are well aware of the tricks being used by some brokers to sell honey that originated in China and laundering it in a second country by filtering out the pollen and other adulterants,” said Eric Wenger, director of quality services for Golden Heritage Foods.
How to differentiate between real honey and fake
Ultra-filtration produces a crystal clear, easy-to-pour, yellowish liquid, while raw unprocessed honey is cloudier, and less pourable and spreadable. It can still contain small parts of the honeycomb, too.
If you are a honey lover, you should stick to buying honey from a local, organic farm or co-op.
According to the findings of Food Safety News, 76 percent of samples bought at grocery stores had all pollen removed. All samples coming from drugstores or single portion packages from fast food chains – such as KFC and McDonalds – had all pollen removed.
On the contrary, samples that came from farmers’ markets, co-ops and natural stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s, all had a decent amount of pollen and could be called real honey.
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