“It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese,” writes Schneider, who foundU.S.groceries are flooded with Chinese and Indian honey banned inEuropeas unsafe because of contamination by antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.
Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia.Professor Bryant found that:
• 76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed.
• 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores had no pollen.
• 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores had the pollen filtered out.
• 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from fast-food restaurants had the pollen removed.
• 100 percent of the honey labeled as “organic” wasn’t filtered, but the pollen was from Brazil, which would make it effective in battling
• However, 100 percent of the honey bought at farmers markets and co-ops had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen. The same result can be expected from local beekeepers.
The National Honey Board, a federal research and promotion organization under USDA oversight, says the bulk of foreign honey (at least 60 percent or more) is sold to the food industry for use in baked goods, beverages, sauces and processed foods.
Some U.S.honey packers didn’t want to talk to Food Safety News about how they process their honey.
One who was willing to talk was Bob Olney, of Honey Tree Inc., inMichigan, who sells Winnie the Pooh honey. Bryant’s analysis of the contents of the container made in Winnie’s image found that the pollen had been removed.
Olney says that his honey came from suppliers inMontana,North DakotaandAlberta. “It was filtered in processing because North American shoppers want their honey crystal clear,” he said.
The packers of Silverbow Honey said “grocery stores want processed honey as it lasts longer on the shelves.”
However, most beekeepers say traditional filtering used by most will catch bee parts, wax, debris from the hives and other visible contaminants but will leave the pollen in place.
Removal of all pollen from honey “makes no sense” and is completely contrary to marketing the highest quality product possible, Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, told Food Safety News.
”I don’t know of anyU.S.producer that would want to do that. 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,” Jensen said.
“In my judgment, 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,” he added.
Richard Adee, whose 80,000 hives in multiple states 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.”
“There is only one reason to ultra-filter honey and there’s nothing good about it,” he says. “It’s no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China.”
The Sioux Honey Association, who says it’sAmerica’s largest supplier, declined repeated requests for comments on ultra-filtration, what Sue Bee does with its foreign honey and whether it’s ultra-filtered when they buy it. The co-op markets retail under Sue Bee, Clover Maid, Aunt Sue, Natural Pure and many store brands.
Eric Wenger, director of quality services for Golden Heritage Foods, the nation’s third largest packer, said his company takes every precaution not to buy laundered Chinese honey.
“We are well aware of the tricks being used by some brokers to sell honey that originated in China and laundering it in a second country by filtering out the pollen and other adulterants,” said Wenger, whose firm markets 55 million pounds of honey annually under its Busy Bee brand, store brands, club stores and food service.
“The brokers know that if there’s an absence of all pollen in the raw honey we won’t buy it, we won’t touch it, because without pollen we have no way to verify its origin.”