Honey is a major part of most food storage plans and for good reason. It is versatile, has a very long storage life, and is a compact source of a lot of calories. (It sounds funny to think of a time when the fact that something has a lot of calories would be a good thing, doesn't it?) The LDS church recommends that each family store 3 lb of honey per adult and 1 lb per child.
I came to the conclusion that we need to store much more than the recommended amount of honey for our family. The main reason is because I prefer to use honey as the sweetener when I make bread from my stored wheat. I calculated how much honey it would take to make bread for a year and that led me to the amount I have stored - around 45 pounds. (Check out my post on what types of sugar I have in my food storage if you missed it the first time around.)
With that much honey hanging around, it isn't surprising that this article posted on Facebook caught my attention:
If you read through the article, you'll find that Food Safety News tested massive amounts of honey from all over the country. They bought honey at the places the average citizen is likely to frequent - grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and even the individual serving packets found at fast food restaurants. The vast majority of the samples didn't have even a trace of pollen.
You might be wondering why the absence of pollen is a problem. There are several reasons to be concerned. First of all, to quote the Food Safety News article, "In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn't honey." Comparing natural honey with pollen to ultra-filtered honey without pollen reminds me of the differences between dark chocolate and white chocolate. Both dark and white chocolates are sweet products that contain parts of the cacao plant, but white chocolate is missing the cocoa solids of real chocolate. The cocoa solids are what provide that delicious, chocolate-y flavor I depend on to make it through my some of the traumatic moments in my harried life. White chocolate is OK, but it definitely is not the same. Following this analogy, why would I choose to buy honey that was missing all the good stuff?
Next, the pollen in honey is what provides all those wonderful health benefits to those who consume it. It also gives each type of honey (ie. clover, tupelo, etc.) a distinctive taste. It is pollen that keeps honey from being just another sugar syrup.
The last thing pollen does for honey is give scientists a way to track where the honey originated. Without the pollen, a honey distributor can mix together honeys from different regions or nations and it will all pretty much taste the same. That cheerful plastic bear hiding in your pantry might very well contain honey from China. Chinese honey is NOT something you want to have as part of your diet. It is common for Chinese honey to contain dangerous antibiotics that are banned in the USA or to be diluted with corn syrup. As the article relates, Chinese honey is making its way into the US in massive amounts and the government isn't trying to stop it.
I have been buying my honey in 5 lb bottles at Sam's Club. No more! That honey is on the list of pollen-free honeys cited in the article. I'm going to look for a local source of honey and may get into beekeeping myself someday. It may be a bit more expensive and require some effort to find local, less-processed honey, but at least I'll know it will be chock full of pollen and poison-free!
Read more about Chinese honey here.