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Honey is supposed to be one of the purest natural foods there is. It shows a perfect balance of ecosystem services and man's inter-dependence on it. However, a recent report by Food Safety News blacklisted several brands of honey for being "ultra-filtered."

Ultra-filtration is a process that removes pollen and therefore, traceability from honey. This technique is also a tacit way for Chinese manufacturers to sell their honey in the US, as there have been strict import tariffs on Chinese honey since 2001 for contamination with antibiotics and heavy metals.

According to the tests conducted:

  • 76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed

  • 100 percent of samples from drugstores had no pollen

  • 100 percent of individual sized honey sachets had no pollen

  • All the samples obtained from farmers markets, co-ops and natural food stores had the anticipated amount of pollen

Honey that was labelled "organic" was more likely to contain pollen. According to the FDA, any product that has been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen cannot be called honey. Not only are the blacklisted companies falsely labeling their product, they are also potentially endangering their customers.

Over the past 18 months, the US imported 208 million pounds of honey. Almost 60 percent came from Asian countries which have been a traditional laundering point for Chinese honey. Removal of the pollen will reduce the quality of the honey because the process of ultra-filtration involves heating the honey and then forcing it through small filters under extremely high pressure.

Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association said:

"Elimination of all pollen can only be achieved by ultra-filtering and this filtration process does nothing but cost money and diminish the quality of the honey. It is pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it's even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law."
Natural raw honey, has many medicinal properties and Manuka honey from New Zealand is even said to fight off Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Unprocessed honey can also help with stomach ailments, anaemia, and allergies. Enzymes and antioxidants in pollen have well documented anti-allergenic benefits which are essential for better health. The US needs better labeling laws as well as more stringent controls on what can be bottled as 'honey' if it is to protect the integrity of small beekeepers.

There are over 300 different honeys made in the US, therefore the amount of locally grown honey is enormous. Honey from the supermarket might be cheaper but it could be devoid of health benefits and can also contain harmful additives. In order to obtain the complete health benefits from honey, customers are better off buying from a local farmer's market rather than the supermarket.

Image Credit: Akhila Vijayaraghavan ©

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshotAkhila Vijayaraghavan

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

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