Natural, pure, organic honey can be so healthful. However, is this what you’re buying at the supermarket?
Many honey brands at grocery stores nowadays have artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup added to them to keep them cheap and affordable for the ever growing market of consumers purchasing these items.
So, how can you tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake?
What is Fake Honey?
Last year, I was watching a documentary series on Netflix called Rotten. In this series, they shared how honey products on the market were being contaminated with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Honey manufacturers haven’t been able to keep up with supply and demand, and what’s really devastating is bees are dying off in record numbers, which poses another problem not only for honey consumers, but for ecosystems and other flora which rely on bees for pollination in order to grow.
Almond crops are one example. Each flower that has been pollinated by a bee will then grow into an almond. Without bees, we would no longer be able to enjoy almonds like we do now.
What’s Happening to the Bees?
The honey bee only lives for around 21 days, while the queen bee can live up to a year or more. A single bee will travel approximately 88,514 km during its lifetime, and produce about one-tenth of a teaspoon of honey. This means we need colonies and colonies of bees to keep up with the high demand for honey.
But bees do much more than merely produce honey. They’re the leading pollinators of crops that we grow.
To put this into perspective, about every third mouthful we eat contains food that was dependent on bees. While dairy and animal products don’t rely on bees in a direct sense, indirectly they do.
Grass (the main source of food for cows) is indirectly reliant on bees as it requires nitrogen in the soil that’s produced by clover, a plant which relies on bees for pollination.
Unfortunately, in recent years, bee colonies around the world have been collapsing at an alarming rate. Many beekeepers have lost some or all of their hives.
This devastating phenomenon is called ‘colony collapse disorder,’ and has been recorded in Europe, Asia and the United States. In parts of China, the bee has disappeared altogether, and pollination now has to be done by hand which is extremely labour intensive and takes a VERY long time.
It’s believed by some scientists that if bees continue to die out at this unprecedented rate, they may well disappear altogether within the next few years.
Why are the Bees Disappearing?
It’s not known why bees are dying out so rapidly. Any affected bees simply leave the hive and don’t come back, which makes diagnosing of the problem very difficult.
Viruses, parasites, insecticides, malnutrition, and other environmental factors have been looked at by researchers, but the specific cause is still unknown. New research coming out is finding that WiFi may be the bigger killer, impacting birds as well.
Habitat destruction, the increase in monoculture (where a single crop is grown), and a greater use of pesticides may be contributing to the decline in bees.
One of the issues with monoculture is that bees can only feed on a limited food source, which can weaken their immune systems to such an extent that they’re no longer able to withstand viruses and disease.
Furthermore, bees often fall victim to pesticides which are sprayed on crops to kill other pests.
Almonds, the most popular nut in the world, have a big impact on biodiversity. In California, for example, bees are dying in record numbers due to exposure to pesticides, habitat loss, and industrial agricultural methods, and a large portion of the blame is being assigned to the almond industry.
In her book, The Great Plant-Based Con, Jayne Buxton shares how ‘Almond growers deploy a mono-crop-style of production, and almonds are doused with greater quantities of glyphosate – known to be lethal to bees – than other crops.’ According to an article shared in the Guardian, ‘More bees die every year in the U.S. than all other fish and animals raised for slaughter combined.’
It was reported in 2016 that 161.8 million pounds of raw honey was generated by 2.77 million honey-producing colonies in the U.S. alone.
In recent findings, some brands of honey imported from China (and those that have come via Malaysia or India) have been found to contain levels of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). They use HFCS because it isn’t detected by official honey tests.
HFCS has been added to honey:
- Because there just aren’t enough bees to produce the honey needed to keep up with demand.
- To avoid raising the prices of honey as it’s becoming a dearer food source due to the decrease in bee populations.
Capilano, Australia’s largest honey producer, is one of these offenders to have been found to dilute their honey with cheap Chinese honey/rice syrup.
How to Tell the Difference Between 100% REAL Honey & Fake Honey?
The presence of pollen, which gets stuck on bees legs when they’re collecting nectar and make its way into the honey, can be a tell-tale sign of authentic honey.
It was found that approximately 75% of honey sold in big box retailers and grocery stores contained no pollen, while 100% of honey bought at farmers’ markets, co-ops, and natural grocers contained traces of pollen. Therefore, where you source your honey from is really important.
Bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly are some of the most nutrient-dense foods ever studied, according to Shawn Stevenson in his book, Eat Smarter, with bee pollen being a complete protein, containing more than 22 amino acids in total. Studies have even found bee pollen to be protective of liver function. A serving of 1-2 heaping teaspoons a day is all that is needed to reap the benefits of this amazing superfood.
When choosing raw honey, look for opaque, cream-coloured, or crystallised honey. There’s also a labelling program called True Source Honey which can help customers feel confident knowing that the honey they purchase is the real thing. Keep an eye out for this certified logo.
Save the Bees are another organisation founded in Australia which help consumers find local honey suppliers that produce real, organic, raw honey.
Sourcing raw honey from a local bee farmer whom you know and trust is the BEST way to ensure you’re receiving 100% pure honey. It also means you can see how they treat their bees.
Sourcing it this way means the honey itself is more fresh, eco-friendly (as it hasn’t been transported great distances on a boat, plane or truck), and supports local farmers and the proper management of bees.
Here are some simple ways you, as a consumer, can differentiate between pure an impure honey. It may require some practice at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can become quite simple to spot impurities:
Test its Thickness
Pure Honey: It’s very thick and takes a while to move from one side of the jar/container to the other.
Fake Honey: It moves very quickly inside the jar. Not dense at all.
Pure Honey: The taste will fade very quickly (in a matter of minutes).
Fake Honey: Incredibly sweet and the taste remains because of added sugars and sweeteners.
Heat it Up
Pure Honey: Upon heating, pure honey caramelises quickly but does not make foam.
Fake Honey: Foam forms and becomes bubbly because of the added moisture, sugars and water.
The Dissolving Method
Pure Honey: Will not dissolve in water immediately and lumps at the bottom. Dilutes when stirred for a while.
Fake Honey: Dissolves very fast when added to water because of additives.
Spread it on Some Bread
Pure Honey: When you spread pure honey on a slice of bread, the bread will become solid in a few minutes.
Fake Honey: It will wet the slice of bread because of the additives.
The Absorption Method
Pure Honey: When you pour a few drops onto some blotting paper it shouldn’t be absorbed. When poured onto a piece of white cloth, it won’t leave stains.
Fake Honey: Will be absorbed into the blotting paper. Leaves stains on a white piece of cloth.
Look for Impurities
Pure Honey: Look for dirty-looking particles, pollen and bee body parts.
Fake Honey: No impurities.
How to Help the Bees
In your garden, plant things that bees love; clover, sage, salvia, oregano, lavender, ironweed, yarrow, yellow hyssop, alfalfa, honeywort, dragonhead, echinacea, bee balm, buttercup, goldenrod and English thyme. Ensure you eliminate garden pesticides.
Flowering trees are also attractive to bees; tulip poplars, tupelos, oranges and sourwoods.
Bees also need sources of shallow water.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
Where do you source your honey from? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,
Are Bees Dying Out?. Praying Nature. Retrieved from http://www.praying-nature.com/site_pages.php?section=Ecology+Matters%21&category_ref=52
Baskind, Chris. (May 3, 2011). 5 ways to help our disappearing bees. MNN. Retrieved from https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/5-ways-to-help-our-disappearing-bees
Bees. (October, 2018). Ag MRC. Retrieved from https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/livestock/bees-profile
How can we differentiate 100% pure honey and adulterated honey?. (08.10.2015). My Bee Line. Retrieved from https://www.mybeeline.co/en/p/how-can-we-differentiate-100-pure-honey-and-adulterated-honey
Young, Allison. (May 27, 2016). 6 Things You Need To Know Before You Buy Honey Again. Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/g20467063/6-things-you-need-to-know-before-you-buy-honey-again/
Ferguson, Adele, Gillett, Chris. (September 3, 2018). Capilano, supermarkets accused of selling fake honey. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/capilano-supermarkets-accused-of-selling-fake-honey-20180827-p5000u.html
Stevenson, Shawn. (2020). Eat Smarter. Little, Brown Spark. 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104. Print.
Buxton, Jayne. (2022). The Great Plant-Based Con. Piatkus. Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DZ. Great Britain. Print.