Recently there have been articles (like this one) circulating with claims that the honey we are buying isn’t real honey. Which means there are also articles (like this one) that claim the first article was fake news. If you’re not sure which one to believe, let me help. There is far too much evidence of adulterated honey in the market. It may not be the 70% that the first article claims, but it’s out there, and our government spends a ton of money to try and stop it from entering our stores.
Back in 2008, for example, the Justice Department was involved in taking down a German company that was selling a supply of honey that was contaminated with a strong antibiotic that isn’t approved for human consumption. Here’s the press release from the DOJ.
Contaminated honey is just one of the issues. Another is the adulteration of honey by using other ‘syrups’ to stretch out the supply. Similar to the way a shady bartender might water-down his booze before serving it to increase profits, honey suppliers (mostly overseas) have been doing the same thing. Here’s the results of a Google search I did using the words adulterated honey arrests. You should see the DOJ report mentioned above as the top item in that search.
Though most of the honey is coming into the market from China, and is typically watered-down using rice syrup, this problem is an international one, which means, regardless of the percentage of fake honey that may be on our grocery store shelves, the chance that you come in contact with fake honey is pretty strong. Not only just by buying one of those cute little bear shaped dispensers of the golden liquid, but it’s becoming one of the most popular alternatives for food manufactures to help cut the amount of sugar from their foods, creating more ‘healthy’ versions.
So, how do you protect yourself? First, as much as possible, don’t buy pre-packed foods. And, second, when you do buy honey, but it at your local Farmers Market, or even better, directly from a bee-keeper. Why is this important? So much depends on US beekeepers staying in business, and right now, they are having difficulty doing that. (read this article for more) Not only are their bee populations dying at alarming rates (read more here), but if they die out, there goes our food supply.
Almost every food we eat depends on bees. And, with the growing movement in our country (and others) towards eating more healthy foods, our food supply is even more at risk. Let’s look at just one example – almonds. You can see in this report from the Almond Board of California, the demand for almonds is growing, and growing at a fast rate. Almond milk and almond flour are in huge demand. And, bottom line, without bees to pollenate the almond trees, there would be no almonds.
Currently, the demand is so high, and the population of bee colonies in California so low, that the almond growers are paying bee keepers from all over the country to truck their bees into the small section of California dedicated to the growing of almonds, a section that is growing every year as more and more farmers are moving towards growing these highly sought-after nuts.
Yes, one of the issues is insecticides (read this) and plants that have been genetically modified to resist insects, but there's another cause as well. Putting such a large percentage of the nation’s bees in the same, small geographic area means one the bees, who can travel up to 2 miles a day searching for food, don’t always return to the same colony they left from. With so many colonies placed so close together, there can be dozens of hives in any 2 mile radius, meaning the bees a keeper enters the state with may not be the same bees they leave with. Why is this an issue? Cross-contamination.
Bees from Florida may not be susceptible to a certain disease that bees in Indiana are, so they aren’t inoculated for that disease. But now the Florida-raised bees and the Indiana-raised bees are meeting each other, pollenating together, and visiting each other’s hives. The result? Huge percentages of the bee population die every year, which means honey production drops, demand rises, and unscrupulous honey makers see opportunity to turn even greater profits by adulterating their honey.
But, if you only buy locally harvested honey and only buy products that have the True Source label, you’ll stand a better chance that the honey you are paying for is really that – honey.