By: Justin Gardener,
It seems that corporations just can’t leave well enough alone. Even something as natural and historically revered as honey has to be processed until it is no longer the thing it used to be.
Food Safety News conducted tests of honey sold at various outlets in 10 states and the District of Columbia. The honey was analyzed for pollen content by a leading mellisopalynologist (investigator of pollen in honey). The results? 76% of total samples had all pollen removed. 100% of samples packaged in small individual portions had all pollen removed. In contrast, all of the honey bought at farmers markets, co-ops and natural food stores had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.
Why does this matter? Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that any product that has been ultra-filtered to remove all pollen is not honey. Not that that matters, as the FDA is a good friend to industry and does not actually check for pollen.
Bee pollen is full of protein, vitamins, minerals, lipids, and carbohydrates. Besides this nutritional value, it is said to help with stomach ailments, allergies, anemia, low energy, and other problems. Pollen from flowers is packaged by the honey bees with nectar and enzymes which turns it into a superfood.
The fact that pollen is removed by honey packers seems bizarre, considering that it costs money and reduces quality. One company spokesman said “North American shoppers want their honey crystal clear” (a useless sound bite) and another said “processed honey…lasts longer on the shelves” (admitting it’s about the money).
It is about the money, and it goes far deeper than shelf life. Removing all pollen makes the origin of the “honey” undetectable. This allows packers to take honey from anywhere in the world, including China. A few years ago it was found that imported Chinese honey was contaminated with chloramphenicol and other dangerous animal antibiotics. U.S. packers import about 120 million pounds of honey from Asian countries, several of which are known laundering points for Chinese honey.
Regular filtering to remove bee parts, wax, and debris is a normal process. There is no reason to do ultra-fine filtration except to remove pollen. Without the pollen there is no sure way to tell where honey comes from. The big-name companies like the Sioux Honey Association which markets Sue Bee, Clover Maid, and others do not care to even comment on the issue.
However, Golden Heritage Producers, the nation’s third largest packer, says they take precautions to avoid laundered Chinese honey. A spokesman said, “The brokers know that if there’s an absence of all pollen in the raw honey we won’t buy it, we won’t touch it, because without pollen we have no way to verify its origin.” However, Golden Heritage still removes all pollen in order to, as they say, increase shelf life.
So it seems that the big corporations selling their “honey” on grocery store shelves don’t want pollen in the product. Is it any coincidence that lack of pollen leaves the origin undetectable, and that only one packer said they take precautions to avoid laundered Chinese honey?
It seems a terrible shame to subject honey—an amazing natural product valued for centuries—to the greed of corporate manufacturing, removing the thing that makes it real honey.
We can combat this practice by buying honey made from local beekeepers and buying from packers that pledge their devotion to healthy, pollen-rich honey.