The Bittersweet Truth About Honey

The Bittersweet Truth About Honey


I did a post last year on adulterated olive oil and have also since learned that much of the honey that is sold around the world is adulterated, as well.  If you are in the US, it is believed that more than a third of the honey sold there is not pure honey and is likely smuggled in from China and India.  The honey from these regions often contains dangerous heavy metals and also antibiotics.  The United States’ FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have assured consumers that the honey is safe even though food safety experts have attested to the fact that the biggest honey packers in the US knowingly purchase honey that has been mislabeled and sent there from China. The reason is believed to be one thing.

“It’s no secret that the honey smuggling is being driven by money, the desire to save a couple of pennies a pound,” said Richard Adee, who is the Washington Legislative Chairman of the American Honey Producers Association.

The FDA’s regulations even state that a product without pollen cannot be legally labeled as honey.  However, most of the jars tested in an investigation conducted by consumer watchdog organization, Food Safety News, came up with no pollen whatsoever.  The honey is refined to such a degree that all of the pollen is filtered out of it and therefore cannot be traced to its origin.  Other substances like cheap high fructose corn syrup or other artificial sweeteners are added to bulk up the product.

Investigation Revelations

Investigators at Food Safety News tested 60 jars of honey in the US and each and every one of them came back negative for pollen.  They also discovered the following for these stores:

  • 76% of samples purchased at grocery stores (such as TOP Food, Safeway, QFC, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc.) did not have pollen.
  • 77 % of the honey from corporate giants like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Target were also absent of pollen.
  • 100% of the honey sampled from drug stores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen whatsoever.

Here is a short list of US honey brands that were tested but did not show any trace of pollen:

Honey Bear

  • American Choice Clover Honey
  • Archer Farms Orange Blossom Honey
  • Archer Farms Organic Classic Honey
  • Busy Bee Organic Honey
  • Busy Bee, Pure Clover Honey
  • Full Circle Pure Honey
  • Giant Eagle Clover Honey
  • GE Clover Honey
  • Great Value, Clover Honey
  • Haggen Honey, Natural & Pure
  • HT Traders Tupelo Honey
  • Kroger Pure Clover Honey
  • Market Pantry Pure Honey
  • Mel-O 100% Pure Honey
  • Natural Sue Bee Clover Honey
  • Naturally Preferred Fireweed Honey
  • Rite Aid Honey
  • Safeway Clover Honey
  • Silver Bow Pure Honey
  • Stop & Shop Clover Honey
  • Sue Bee Clover Honey
  • Thrifty Bee Honey
  • Valutime Honey
  • Walgreen MEL-O Honey
  • Western Family Clover Honey
  • Wegman Clover Honey
  • Winnie the Pooh, Pure Clover

This ‘honey’, unfortunately, is not honey.  The good news, however, was that the honey tested at farmers markets, co-ops and natural food stores like Trader Joe’s had pollen.  Some organic brands also tested positively for having pollen.

The US receives over 40 million pounds of imported honey each year.  In 2010, nearly 38 million pounds of honey came from India and a mere 24 shipments amidst those millions of pounds were inspected.

The European Union has banned all honey from India because lead and other illegal substances were found in the contaminated honey.  In fact, they found that much of the honey was created without bees.  The ‘honey’ consisted of artificial sweeteners and then was highly processed to remove any proof of being adulterated.

Mysterious Dying Bees

The declining bee population around the world may be fueling the desire for creating fake ‘honey’ or adulterating supplies.  Here are some possible theories for the global decline of bee colonies.

  • Malnourished bees because of the destruction of their food supply.  This causes damage to their immune systems and makes them vulnerable to viruses, pathogens and fungi.
  • Use of toxic pesticides and genetically modified crops.
  • The microwaves that come from cell phones have been shown to cause colony collapse disorder or CCD. They have found that these waves disrupt the communication between bees and also their ability to navigate.
  • Climate change, droughts and stress from migration of colonies over great distances to pollinate other areas of the earth.

Space Technology Re-routed

There is a new laser test, however, that was intended for use on Mars to detect bacteria but will now be used to detect fake honey.  It is a device funded by the European Space Agency.  This laser works with great precision.

“Each molecule, and each of its isotopic forms, has a unique fingerprint spectrum. If, on the other hand, you know what you are looking for, you can simply set the laser to the appropriate frequency,” said Damien Weidmann, Laser Spectroscopy Team Leader at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Lab At Home

While I am really hopeful about this development, it is doubtful that this technology will be able to test each and every jar on the market.  In the meantime, here are some ‘less than scientific’ tips that may help you to determine whether or not your honey is genuine.

1. The Water Test 

Put a tablespoon of honey into a glass of water.  If the honey does not dissolve at the bottom of the glass, it is likely pure honey.  Jaggery is the most common additive to honey and jaggery dissolves in water.

2. The Absorption Test

Put a drop of honey on some cotton cloth or a piece of low-grade paper.  If the honey spreads on the paper or seeps through, then it is not real honey.  You can also put a drop of honey on the cotton cloth and wash it.  If there is a stain left then it is most likely fake honey.

3. Checking For Water Content Test

There is very little water in honey – less than 20%.  Fake honey has a higher water content.  To test the water content in your honey, you can take a piece of bread and put it in your honey. If the bread hardens then your honey is most likely real.  However, if the bread softens or falls apart then the honey has additives.


My family loves honey and we use it a lot.  We’re going to be even more vigilant now about the types of honey we bring into our home.

Live well and be happy!














5 Responses »

  1. I had been using Aldi (Trader Joe’s) organic wildflower honey under the SimplyNature label — dark, delicious and rich flavor at $2.99 for 12 oz. It’s labeled as a product of Brazil. Then the other night when I needed honey, I didn’t make it to Aldi in time so I had to shop at the big supermarket with later hours. I ended up buying Sue Bee Clover Honey, which was a buck more for the same size and not organic. When I got home and tasted it, it almost gagged me. It doesn’t taste much like honey at all. It would not surprise me to find that it was half corn syrup.

  2. this has been disproved by NPR. all honey is filtered to remove wax, bee parts etc.. nice try in promoting your product. do your research scientifically next time.

    • I don’t think it’s me that needs to do additional research. There’s plenty out there of which you can avail yourself. And, if you took two minutes to peruse my site (and even thoroughly read the post!), you’d know that I’m selling nothing. Thanks for stopping by, though!

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