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Honey ranks at the top of the list of the most prevalently adulterated foods in the world. Americans consume more than 400 million pounds of honey each year, but just 149 million pounds were produced in the United States last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most of the honey available on store shelves is imported.
The majority of adulterated honey originates from China and Asian countries traditionally known as laundering points for Chinese honey, such as India and Vietnam. Adulterated honey is blended with water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, other sweeteners (some legal, others illegal), and possibly harmful ingredients like illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has for several decades postponed developing national standards for filtration and enforcing inspections of imported honey. The FDA recently drafted guidelines recommending products containing honey with added sweeteners (e.g., sugar, corn syrup, etc.) should be labeled as “blends” and not pure “honey”. However, since the labeling guidelines would not be mandatory, nor require verification through testing, its impact on the consumer is in doubt.
According to Food Safety News, consumers’ odds of buying pure honey improve when buying brands labeled as organic. Most organic honey is produced in Brazil.
Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association states, “it is pretty safe to assume any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves [found nearly everywhere under a wide range of brand names] is Chinese honey … it’s even safer to assume it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law… the ultra-filtration process does nothing but cost money and diminish the quality of the honey.”
“It’s no secret to anyone in the business the only reason all the pollen is filtered out [in the ultra-filtration process] is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is in almost all cases, that is China,” according to Richard Adee, whose 80,000 hives in multiple states produce 7 million pounds of honey each year. “Honey has been valued by millions for centuries for its flavor and nutritional value and that is precisely what is completely removed by the ultra-filtration process.”
According to Wenger of Golden Heritage, “There is a significant difference between filtration, which is a standard industry practice intended to create a shelf-stable honey, and ultra-filtration, which is a deceptive, illegal, unethical practice.”