Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Honey that's not so sweet

Now that we've all been made aware of the potential harm of high-fructose corn syrup, many of us have been looking for products featuring sugar or a better substitute. Unless you're a strict vegan, you might have chosen honey, because it's all natural, right? Maybe.

The problem with honey that comes from places such as China or India is that all the pollen is filtered out. Wait - shouldn't that be a good thing? For people with pollen allergies and such? But when all the pollen is filtered out of honey, which usually involves heating and diluting the honey to force it through ultra-fine filters, the honey cannot be traced to its source. And some of those sources have been adding antibiotics and other stuff to the honey before shipping it on.

Food Safety News tested more than 60 jars bought at various outlets in 10 states and the District of Columbia. The contents were analyzed for pollen by Vaughn Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation's premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey. The results:

  • 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 ;, Stop & Shop and King Soopers. 
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
  • 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
  • 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald's and KFC had the pollen removed.

Bryant found that the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and Trader Joe's had the full, anticipated amount of pollen.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is nothing new. Back in 2004, a Guardian newspaper story quoted the operations director of Britain's largest honey packer, Rowse, saying, "The trouble is there are so many places in the world where people are selling dodgy honey. Once you spot a problem area, it moves elsewhere."

To read the Food Safety News story in full, click here.

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