Is that honey jar you’re about to buy really from North Dakota? Or is it adulterated honey? Lot’s of people assume that every jar of honey is the real deal. A lot of bees did their best to fill jars of honey, and now, you can grab any jar off the shelf, or can you?
Well, if you thought you’ve been taking home jars of pure honey every time you go shopping, you might be in for a rude shock.
Over the last couple of years, the US supply of natural honey has seen a steady decline. Over 76% of all honey sold in the US is fake. That means 7 out of 10 times, you’ll be taking home a jar of refined sugar instead of the real thing.
And we all know refined sugars are bad for our health. You’re already taking as much as 25 tablespoons of sugar every day. That’s a lot according to the American Heart Association (AHA). You shouldn’t be taking more than 7 teaspoons of refined sugars in a day. If you exceed the limit, you open yourself up to all sorts of diseases like obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure, diseases with high mortality rates.
So, why all the fake honey?
You might be wondering why is fake honey so common? Don’t we have bees?!
Well, there are lots of bees in the US living in 2.8 million beehives. Now that’s a lot of bees, but not enough to meet the demand for honey. Those hives, mostly in Dakota, produce around 33 million pounds of honey every year.
But we consume about 160 million pounds of honey every year. So how do we make up for the deficit? By importing honey from countries like India, Turkey, and China produce about 40% of the world’s total honey supply.
And there lays the crux of the problem. Importing honey from other countries means the market gets flooded with not-so-pure honey. Case in point, China has flooded the honey market with ultra-filtered honey for years. The honey goes through a process that removes pollen, making it harder to pinpoint its point of origin. Even more alarming, studies have shown that the Chinese also dumped tons of honey containing illegal antibiotics in the U.S market for years. And the Federal Drug Administration agency only just started checking for adulterated and misbranded honey products recently, bringing us to the next problem.
U.S Government Regulations on the Classification of Honey
The FDA, working with the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, developed an acceptable standard for honey.
According to the standards, honey is the natural sweet substance made by bees from the nectar of plants, excretion of other plant-sucking insects or plants. The honey must be made by the bee combining specific substances of their own and deposited on honeycombs to ripen. Honey made through any other process is not pure honey.
The FDA continues to state that honey should consist of different sugars like fructose and glucose. It also contains organic acids, solid particles acquired during the bees’ collection process, and enzymes. The standards also define the color of acceptable honey, brown, and its consistency. Real honey must be viscous or partially crystallized, although the flavor can differ a bit, depending on the plant of origin. That means ultra-processed honey imported from China and other countries isn’t real honey.
Here’s a quick rundown of the various types of honey recognized by the United States Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey:
- Liquid Honey contains all the features identified by the FDA, apart from visible crystals.
- Crystallized honey has solid granules or crystals.
- Partially crystallized honey is a mixture of liquid and crystallized honey.
- Filtered honey has all fine particles like pollen and air bubbles removed.
- Strained honey almost all its particles removed.
They also classify honey as monofloral when it comes from a single plant source and polyfloral when it comes from multiple botanical sources.
But the FDA recognizes that most of the honey in the market is denatured intentionally or unintentionally. Water is often added together with high fructose corn syrup. Also, honey processing companies tend to remove pollen from their products, further altering the composition of honey available to most consumers. Honey that’s put through any of these processes is not real honey, according to the FDA.
What is the FDA doing about all the fake honey on the market?
Well, a few years ago, they said that it’s really hard to control the quality of honey imports. They can enforce rules on local food businesses if they tried to pass adulterated honey as real honey. If these businesses fail to label their denatured honey products as a “blend of sugar and honey”, the FDA can take action.
What about honey imports though? Can the FDA ensure the purity of honey imports? Well, the agency regularly checks honey imports for drug residues or undeclared added sweeteners. At least now you can tell the difference between real and adulterated honey by reading the label.
But that hasn’t stopped the prevalence of denatured honey products in the market. The FDA won’t detain adulterated honey imports, as long as they’re properly labeled. And with the cost of natural honey going through the roof, it’s only a matter of time before fake honey takes over the market.
So, is pure honey becoming harder to find? You can bet your bottom dollar it is. With 7 out of 10 households chomping down on denatured honey products, finding real honey in most stores is like finding a bee in a hornet nest.
Luckily, you can improve your odds of finding real honey by following these simple steps.
How to tell the difference between real honey and adulterated honey
1. Check for thickness
Most of the time, adulterated honey has higher water content compared to real honey making it runny and light. Before you buy that jar of honey, tilt it a bit and check how the honey moves. If it takes time to move, you’re probably holding a jar of genuine honey.
You’ll probably have to do this at home because they won’t allow you to go around opening honey products at the store to check the stickiness.
If the honey feels sticky when you rub it between your fingers, it’s adulterated. The added sweeteners make it sticky.
The flavor of real honey vanishes after a couple of minutes. Adulterated honey, on the other hand, has an aftertaste that lasts a little bit longer owing to the added sugars and sweeteners.
Real honey has an aroma, mostly from the flowers that gave up their nectar to make the honey. Adulterated honey either has no aroma or you’ll get a whiff of a sour industrial smell.
5. Flame Test
If a matchstick ignites immediately after being dipped in honey, that’s real honey. Adulterated honey wets the matchstick due to its high water content making it almost impossible to ignite.
6. Spread Test
When you spread real honey on bread, the slices harden in a couple of minutes. Denatured honey makes the bread soggy.
7. Absorption Test
Real honey doesn’t blot through the paper while adulterated honey gets absorbed by blotting paper.
8. Egg Yolk Test
Mixing real honey with egg yolk alone makes the yolk look like it’s been cooked. Denatured honey has no effect on an egg yolk.
Testing every honey product out there to see if it’s real or not isn’t be the most efficient way of getting pure honey. The odds are against you, with 3 out of 10 honey products being pure. To help you find unadulterated honey, here’s a list of leading pure honey products.
Known pure honey
EVVA 100% Pure Raw Honey
Extracted from Moldavian beehives, honey doesn’t get rawer than EVVA 100% Raw Honey. They leave the pollen content intact making it easy to trace the origin of every EVVA honey jar. You won’t ingest tons of sweeteners and added sugar when you opt for EVVA honey products.
YS Eco Bee Farms Raw Unfiltered Honey
This organic and pure honey has all its pollen and crystalline structures intact. It’s also unpasteurized meaning you get all the natural healing properties and you can even apply it on your skin.
Manuka Health – MGO 400+ Manuka Honey
Although Manuka Honey is strained from most of its particulate matter, the New Zealand honey is one of the purest honey brands tested in laboratories. The extremely smooth feel of this honey product makes it a perfect companion in the kitchen as well as the beauty department.
Sleeping Bear Farms Cinnamon Raw Honey
It’s unprocessed and has no added sugars, but you do get cinnamon extracts with Sleeping Bear Farms Cinnamon Raw honey. It is 100% pure so you don’t have to worry about anything when eating or applying it, especially on sensitive skin.
Even in a world where the answer to the question “is pure honey becoming harder to find” gets answered with a yes 70% of the time, you now stand a better chance of picking up pure honey from the shelves.