Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some Not-So-Sweet News About Honey

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. 


  1. Do you have a whole foods near you? In their bulk section, they typically have local honey for purchase. And you can bring in your own glass bottles, you just have to have them weigh the bottles at customer service so they know what the tare weight is.

    Also, look at craft shows. I get a lot of my honey that way and its all very local.

  2. Meghan - Don't I wish? The nearest Whole Foods is over 100 miles away. :) I've always wanted to live near a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's...

    Thanks for the tip re:craft shows. I never would have thought to check there!


  3. This confirms what I had suspected recently, my usual fare is from fruitful yield the brand is called "Some Honey" harvested from Wisconsin and its wonderful stuff, recently we had purchased the Walgreen's MEL-O Honey brand and when I first tasted it, the first words out of my mouth were "This is not real honey its awful" Not to mention it crystallizes abnormally fast as another clue. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. There is a small business near where I live called Round Rock Honey that sells pure honey online and their honey is outstanding. I first tried their honey at a local farmer's market and I've been hooked ever since. I never liked the taste of store bought honey, but this stuff is beyond wonderful. Night and day difference.

    Just search for "round rock honey" - I promise you won't regret it. And no, I don't work for them - just a very happy customer.

  5. There are other benefits of buying your honey locally.
    You might make a friend.
    Your money isn't leaving the area.
    You're helping support a business stay alive. Where would you buy honey if they went out of business and companies started putting even crazier stuff in the honey?

  6. Akins is a good place to buy things if you have one near you. We just got a Sunflower Farmers Markt (grocery store realy) they have great prices and a good portion is organic. Alot like Whole Foods. They have an area there where you can get local honey as well.