That Honey You Just Bought Might Not Really Be Honey

The honey you're buying may not be 100 percent honey.First we find out that we're getting ripped off in the fish department. Now, a new study commissioned by Food Safety News shows that most of the honey on supermarket shelves isn't really honey.

More than 60 types of honey from several major supermarkets, drug stores, and shopping clubs--including  Stop and Shop, Safeway, Wegman's,A&P, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, Sam's Club, and Walmart--were  tested by Vaughn Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University. He found that most of them had all of the  pollen filtered out. Without any pollen, it's impossible to figure out whether the honey came from a safe  source, or whether it's even actual honey at all; much of the ultra-filtered honey may come from China,  may be contaminated, or may be diluted with High Fructose Corn Syrup.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a product that has been ultra-filtered and no longer contains any traces of pollen cannot be considered honey. As Food Safety News points out, though, the FDA isn't actually checking the pollen content of supermarket honeys themselves--which means that manufacturers can play fast and loose with their labeling.

About 76 percent of honey purchased at supermarkets, 77 percent of the samples from big box stores, and 100 percent of the samples purchased at drug stores contained no pollen. All of the individually packaged servings of honey by Smuckers and packets given out at McDonalds and KFC were also free of pollen, and therefore suspect.

One manufacturer told Food Safety News that the honey was filtered on purpose. "It was filtered in processing because North American shoppers want their honey crystal clear," said Bob Olney of Honey Tree Inc., a Michigan-based company whose Winnie the Pooh honey is sold at Walmart.

Other manufacturers insisted that ultra-filtered honey was less prone to spoilage. "The grocery stores want processed honey as it lasts longer on the shelves," said a representative from Silverbow Honey.

But beekeepers pointed out that traditional filtering methods can remove debris and wax while leaving plenty of pollen to prove that the honey is authentic. Beekeeper Richard Adee, who owns 80,000 hives in several produce 7 million pounds of honey each year, told Food Safety News that "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."

If you can't do without honey in your tea, take heart: Samples from farmer's markets, co-op grocery stores, and Trader Joe's turned out to be legit.

Here are the brands that Food Safety News checked out. Are any of them in your cupboards?

  • American Choice Clover Honey
  • Archer Farms Orange Blossom Honey
  • Archer Farms Organic Classic Honey
  • Busy Bee Organic Honey
  • Busy Bee Pure Clover Honey
  • CVS Honey
  • Fred Meyer Clover Honey
  • Full Circle Pure Honey
  • Giant Eagle Clover Honey
  • GE Clover Honey
  • Great Value Clover Honey
  • Haggen Honey, Natural & Pure
  • HG Traders Tupelo Honey
  • Kroger Pure Honey
  • Market Pantry Pure Honey
  • Mel-o 100% Pure Honey
  • Natural Sue Bee Honey
  • Naturally Preferred Fireweed Honey
  • Rite Aid Honey
  • Safeway Clover Honey
  • Silver Bow Pure Honey
  • Stop and Shop Clove Honey
  • Sue Bee Clover Honey
  • Thrifty Bee Honey
  • ValuTime Honey
  • Walgreen MEL-O Honey
  • Western Family Clover Honey
  • Wegman's Clover Honey
  • Winnie the Pooh, Pure Clover