There’s fake honey? Who would have thought we’d ever be facing a problem like this?
The first time I heard there were honey products on the market that had been contaminated with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was last year, when I was watching a documentary series on Netflix called Rotten. I was honestly shocked to hear that the honey we were consuming nowadays might not even be real honey at all!
Honey has soared in production over the years, and with this demand for honey being so high, honey production isn’t able to keep up with the vast amount being consumed by our huge population. And what’s really sad is bees are dying off in record numbers, which poses a HUGE problem for ecosystems and other flora which rely on bees to pollinate them in order to grow. An example of this is almond crops. Each flower that has been fertilised 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, and then passes away. The queen bee, however, can live up to a year or more. A single bee will travel approximately 88,514 km during its lifetime (that is a looooong way!), and will only 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 the crops that we grow. To put this into perspective, about every third mouthful we eat contains food that was dependent on bees. You may be thinking, “Dairy and animal products don’t rely on bees”, and yes, this may be true in the direct sense. But indirectly they do. Grass (the main source of food for cows) is indirectly reliant on bees as it requires nitrogen in the soil that is produced by clover which does rely on bees for its pollination.
Now 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 (much longer than when the bees did it). At this present time in other parts of the world, pollination is done efficiently and “free of charge” by bees. But it is believed by some scientists that if bees continue to die out at the unprecedented rate we are seeing now, bees may well disappear altogether within the next few years!
Scientists honestly do not know why bees are dying out. Affected bees simply leave the hive and don’t come back, making diagnosis of the problem very difficult. Viruses, parasites, insecticides, malnutrition and other environmental factors have all been looked at by researchers, but they’ve still not been able to find a specific cause for the dramatic decline in bee populations.
Habitat destruction, increase in monoculture (where a single crop is grown), and a greater use of pesticides on crops may be contributing to the decline in bees. As more land is given to agriculture and development, habitat is being destroyed. One of the issues with monoculture is that bees can only feed on a limited food source, which can cause their immune systems to weaken to such an extent that they no longer can withstand viruses and diseases. What’s more, bees often fall victim to pesticides which are sprayed on crops to kill other pests.
To help in the survival of the bees, scientists recommend that we limit the destruction of bee habitats, so those places where bees thrive. Bee habitats which contain an array of rich diversity of plants enable the bees to feed on a wide variety of shrubs, tree blossoms, and wild flowers so that they build up and develop strong immune systems that help protect them against viruses and disease.
It was reported that in 2016, 161.8 million pounds of raw honey was generated by 2.77 million honey-producing colonies in the U.S. alone. It’s estimated that the consumption of honey per person in the U.S. is approximately 1.51 pounds per year.
Now there has been a recent discovery that will shock you… honey that you find on your supermarket shelves has been diluted with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Say whaaaat?! I know, shocking! 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 HFCS. They use HFCS because it isn’t detected by official honey tests.
The reason this syrup has been added to honey is:
- Because there just aren’t enough bees to produce enough honey to keep up with the HUGE demand for honey around the world.
- To avoid raising the prices of honey as it’s becoming a dearer food source due to the decrease in bee populations, they’ve added a cheap, really sweet syrup to dilute the honey and keep the prices super cheap.
This syrup looks and tastes like honey so it’s very easy to mistake it for the real thing.
Capilano, Australia’s largest honey producer, has allegedly been found to have been diluting their honey with cheap Chinese honey/rice syrup.
How To Differentiate Between 100% REAL Honey & Fake Honey?
The presence of pollen, which gets stuck on the bees’ legs when they’re collecting nectar and can make its way into the honey, can tell you the origin and potency of the 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 had their full pollen content. Therefore, sourcing where you buy your honey from is very important.
When choosing raw honey, look for opaque, cream-coloured, or crystallised honey. That’s a good sign. There’s also a labelling program called True Source Honey which can help consumers feel confident that the honey they purchase is the real thing. So keep an eye out for this certified logo.
Sourcing raw honey from a local bee farmer who you know and trust is the best way to ensure you are receiving 100% pure honey. It also means you can see how they treat their bees and feel some peace knowing they haven’t been ill-treated in any way. Plus, the honey itself is fresher, more eco-friendly (as it hasn’t had to be transported great distances on a boat, plane or truck), and it supports local farmers and the proper treatment of bees.
Here are some simple ways you as a consumer can differentiate between pure an impure honey. Below are some of the main differences in properties that will help you distinguish between real and fake honey. It may require some practice at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can become quite simple to notice the impurities.
Pure Honey: It tends not to be sticky if you rub it between your fingers.
Fake Honey: It’s fairly sticky because of the high amounts of added sweeteners and additives.
Pure Honey: It’s very thick and takes a fair while to move from one side of the jar/container to the other.
Fake Honey: It is very lightish and moves really quickly inside the jar. Not dense at all.
Pure Honey: The taste will go away very soon in a matter of minutes. Also if you heat and cool pure honey, you will change the taste and kill the healing and nutritional properties.
Fake Honey: Incredibly sweet and the taste remains because of added sugars and sweeteners.
Pure Honey: If experienced, you can actually smell aromas of certain flowers and wild grasses.
Fake Honey: There is mostly none or just an industrial sour smell.
Pure Honey: Upon heating, pure honey caramelises quickly but does not make foam.
Fake Honey: Forms foam and becomes bubbly because of the added moisture, sugars and water.
Pure Honey: Doesn’t dissolve in water immediately and lumps at the bottom. Dilutes when stirred for a while. Mixing in equal amounts of honey and methylated spirits, honey settles at the bottom.
Fake Honey: Dissolves very fast when added to water because of additives. Dissolves in methylated spirits while making the solution milky.
Pure Honey: After immersing a matchstick in the honey it lights easily with no delay.
Fake Honey: The matchstick will not light easily because of the presence of moisture.
Pure Honey: When you spread it 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 additives.
Pure Honey: When you pour a few drops onto some blotting paper it shouldn’t get absorbed. When poured onto a piece of white cloth, it won’t leave stains.
Fake Honey: Gets absorbed into the blotting paper. Leaves stains on a white piece of cloth.
Pure Honey: Presence of impurities: dirty-looking particles, pollen and bee body parts.
Fake Honey: Absence of impurities.
Egg Yolk Test
Pure Honey: When poured into a container with yolk alone and the mixture’s stirred together, the yolk looks like it’s cooked.
Fake Honey: Has no effect on the yolk.
How We As Individuals Can Help The Bees
In your garden, plant things that bees like. Clover is a great choice. Bees love it! Other plants bees love include: sage, salvia, oregano, lavender, ironweed, yarrow, yellow hyssop, alfalfa, honeywort, dragonhead, echinacea, bee balm, buttercup, goldenrod and English thyme.
Flowering trees are also attractive to bees. Tulip poplars, tupelos, oranges and sourwoods are great choices.
Bees also need sources of shallow water.
Another action step you can take is to eliminate garden pesticides.
Let’s do it for the bees! ✊❤️🐝
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
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Where do you source your honey from? Share with me in the comments below!
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