Most honey sold in U.S. grocery stores not worthy of its name
November 9th, 2011
07:00 PM ET
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Most of the honey sold in chain stores across the country doesn't meet international quality standards for the sweet stuff, according to a Food Safety News analysis released this week.

One of the nation's leading melissopalynologists analyzed more than 60 jugs, jars and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia for pollen content, Food Safety News said. He found that pollen was frequently filtered out of products labeled "honey."

"The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world's food safety agencies," the report says. "Without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources."

Among the findings:

• No pollen was found in 76 percent of samples from grocery stores including TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.

• No pollen was found in 100 percent of samples from drugstores including Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy.

• The anticipated amount of pollen was found in samples bought at farmers markets, co-ops and stores like PCC and Trader Joe's.

Why does it matter where your honey comes from? An earlier Food Safety News investigation found that at least a third of all the honey consumed in the United States was likely smuggled from China and could be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.

Foreign honey also puts a squeeze on American beekeepers, who have been lobbying for years for an enforceable national standard to prevent foreign honey from flooding the market.

The Food and Drug Administration does not have a standard of identity for honey like it does for milk or other products, a spokesman said.

The lack of regulation is what enables potentially unsafe honey to make its way into the country, Andrew Schneider, author of the Food and Safety News report.

"Where there's no pollen, there's no way for authorities to confirm where the honey came from, so it's easy to smuggle illicit honey into the country," he said.

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Filed under: Beekeeping • Bees • Food Politics

soundoff (993 Responses)
  1. readysetgo

    Pollen has very little to do with honey.
    Honey is made from NECTAR, not pollen. Bees store these two things separately. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that honey has very little pollen.
    That isn't to say that most the honey you find in stores is legit. It's not. Most of it is made by feeding the bees corn syrup or sugar water. However, it has nothing to do with pollen.

    October 13, 2014 at 12:33 am |
  2. David Jeane

    Very interesting and informative

    March 10, 2014 at 9:20 am |
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  6. taniko

    I have friends who have hives. That's where I get my honey. If I really needed more (I don't use that much to begin with), I'd hit up my local farmer's market.

    April 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
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    April 15, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  8. Roch

    If you want good quality honey I recommend Argentinean honey, take a look at while you are at it.

    November 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  9. BradiKal

    Once again, China comes through with heavy metals in food. Hopefully they wipe themselves out before they wipe us and our economy out.

    November 29, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  10. Myto Senseworth

    The FDA would just set standards for allowable levels of filth and Poisson making it easier to import. Buy local products.

    November 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Jay

      "Poisson" = French for "fish."

      November 30, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
      • The Eternal Satyr

        Oui! Allowable levels of filthy French fish!

        January 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  11. Jack Black

    The article never gets around to saying exactly what harm honey without pollen might bring. Will someone risk infection? Rashes? Impotence? Stupidity? What? Before we get all excited about impure honey, just tell me what it might do to me. Then I can decide if it's worth searching out.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • captain underpants

      They can't really say anything about what it might do on a major news site like CNN, because that would be bad news for all the american distributors of this crap. But... this will raise your risk of (pretty much give you) heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and whatever unique chronic poisoning symptoms are present for each chemical contaminant. Organ damage may be permanent. This is more toxic crap from China. Our food here is also garbage, don't be fooled.

      November 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Robert

      Dummy, read again. The article states that, without pollen, you can not determine it's origin. Thus, pollenless honey could very well be from unsafe sources like China (polluted with heavy metals, etc). Removing the pollen masks the origin of the honey, thus masking it's origin. Obviously, with pollen they can determine what type of flowers it was gathered from by the bees. Knowing which flowers will let them know where it is produced.

      November 26, 2011 at 11:22 am |
      • momzna

        I guess without pollen you can't even tell whether the honey was made from flowers or from a bucket of corn syrup.

        January 23, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • andy

      If you are using honey as a sugar substitute then there is no difference. If you understand the functions of the pollens in controlling allergies, and the sleep inducing effects of those elements of honey that are distilled away. (Sleep inducing properties used for thousands of years, among others)

      November 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
      • Camille

        I use raw orange blossom honey to manage bad asthma attacks. It is amazing! It helps relax the airways and makes coughs more productive. Not to mention that it is very soothing after the whole scary asthma attack in a nice cup of lemon zinger tea... Pure, raw honey has such amazing helpful properties!!!!

        April 22, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  12. Oi

    So, the question really is: Why the he// does the FDA allow this to happen, and when are we going to clear out that practically useless government agency and put people in there that actually feel like doing a job?

    November 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  13. Frances

    I fell in love with Australian honey when I purchased a jar from a local specialty store. When I returned they didn't carry it anymore I don't understand all the hoopla about honey/ I've never tasted anything like Australian honey. Do you know of an shops in the US that sells approved Australian honey? If sao, please let me know.



    November 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  14. Hey

    I pee in my honey... and Im not talking about the food

    November 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Liqmaticus

      Dude. Just wrong. Wow. LOL. Why am I laughing. I must stop. You evil poster. You!

      November 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
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