What’s In Your Honey? Common Brands Stripped Of Pollen

honey jars on a shelfThe health-conscious sweet-lovers among us are perpetually in search of healthier sources of sugar – alternatives to the white refined stuff, or artificial “diet” options.  For many dessert enthusiasts, that means honey. Now most of us understand that like any product, there is some range with regard to quality. Usually, scanning a label for terms like raw or all-natural helps sort the best from the rest, but a recent Food Safety News report will have us all digging a bit deeper the next time we reach for our favourite brand of honey. The report confirms that a shocking three quarters of the honey sold in US and Canadian stores has been stripped of its pollen.

Why does pollen matter so much? Here are a few good reasons to speak out against honey laundering:

Untraceable Origins

When manufacturers subject honey to super-fine filters, precious pollen gets left behind along with remnants that actually should be removed like insect parts and hive debris. This poses a food safety certification issue because without pollen, there is no way of tracing the product back to its primary geographical source. Pollen provides a roadmap to your honey’s country of origin – something certain producers would like to avoid. But why?

Contaminated Products

When Food Safety News spoke with honey retailers and producers, they all underscored the problem of adulterated products that can’t be traced because of pollen removal. China and India have stood accused of ultra-filtration and for selling honey contaminated with antibiotics, heavy metals, and completely stripped of pollen – to help cover producers’ tracks. Because of a lack of quality assurance and quality control mechanisms, this sub-par honey has flooded North American markets for years.

Major Retailers Fall Short

When Food Safety News conducted laboratory tests on honey from a variety of retailors, they discovered that big chains like Costco and Walmart sell products that are 77-100 percent pollen-free. And those small packets of honey provided by fast food restaurants?  They also contain absolutely no pollen. The same goes for several pharmacy providers and grocery store outlets.

Bring Back The Pollen

Along with pollen, ultra-filtration removes much of honey’s nutritional benefits. It’s the kind of over-processing health conscious consumers hope to avoid by choosing honey in the first place. Plus, it paves the way for diluted products, like the many instances of imported honey that once tested, prove to be cut with high fructose corn syrup and other illegal sweeteners. Short of enrolling in a food safety course or running lab tests on your most recent purchase, Food Safety News suggests consumers look more closely at their favourite brands to determine their legitimacy. Their investigation revealed that supermarket brands labeled “organic” had a better rate of pollen preservation. But ultimately, they recommend that we avoid the big chains. Honey purchased at farmers markets and co-ops are our best bet when it comes to pollen count – and satisfying our next sweet craving.

How far will you go to buy natural, unprocessed products?