More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores bears little resemblance to the nutritious nectar that bees produce, according to testing done for Food Safety News.
Laboratory testing of more than 60 products from 10 states and the District of Columbia found that a high-tech process called ultra-filtration had removed all pollen, which effectively erases all of honey's natural nutrients and also obscures the only way authorities can pinpoint where the honey came from.
Ultra-filtered honey that contains no pollen is not considered honey by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
What is ultra-filtering? Here's how the publication explains it:
Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where 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 source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey - some containing illegal antibiotics - on the U.S. market for years.
Removal of all pollen from honey "makes no sense," Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Products Association, told Food Safety News. Ultra-filtering, he said, is only used to hide honey that may have entered the country "un-inspected and in violation of federal law."
Traditional filtering will remove particles and debris from the bee hive, beekeepers say, but leave the pollen and other nutrients intact. Honey's soothing, natural antimicrobial properties have been shown to help fight off infection, as well as relieve coughs.
Here's what the testing, done at Texas A&M University's Palynology Research Laboratory, found:
- 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 had no pollen. This included places like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy.
- 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores had the pollen filtered out. These were places like Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B.
- 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual packets had the pollen removed. This means packets from Smucker's, McDonald's and KFC.
- Buy local or from natural food stores. All the samples bought from farmers markets, co-ops and natural food stores like Trader Joe's had pollen.
- Buy organic. If you have to buy at major grocery chains, look for organic brands. Out of seven organic samples tested, five had pollen. All of the organic honey tested was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.