I recently wrote about maple syrup fraud and how two senators are trying to introduce higher penalties for those who sell fraudulent maple syrup on the market. So, it was dismaying to find out that honey sold in the U.S. has serious issues as well. It was a reminder, once again, to support local farmers.


Here’s the problem. Our shelves are being filled with honey that is considered unsafe in other countries. This honey comes from Asia and India and is potentially laced with lead, other heavy metals, and animal antibiotics. Even worse, some “honey” is actually manufactured from artificial sweeteners and then filtered to remove any trace of contamination.


I’d rather take my honey without antibiotics and lead, thank you.


One of the tests they can run to check for honey purity is checking pollen counts. When a honey is ultra-filtered, it is most likely not real honey or could come from dubious sources and is polluted with contaminants.  Unfortunately the FDA is not currently running any checks on honey.


One of the nations premiere melissopalynologists, Vaughn Bryant, at the request of Food Safety News, tested 60 bottles of honey for pollen counts. Here are his results.


Results of honey testing

  • 76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
  • 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
  • 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald's and KFC had the pollen removed.
  • Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and "natural" stores like PCC and Trader Joe's had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen. 

Remember, a lack of pollen in honey signifies ultra-filtered honey that may not even be honey at all. I was shocked at the high number of pollen-free honey sold. While I hope that new, tougher regulations are put into practice for the honey industry in the U.S., I am not waiting for the FDA to protect me. I am taking my own steps to buy pure honey. The obvious step to me is buying from local beekeepers as much as possible. I was thrilled in the above report that honey from local health food stores, Trader Joes, and farmers markets contained full pollen counts. Here are some resources to consider for your own pure honey search.


Links for finding local honey


If you have a local Trader Joes in your area, they sell honey for a reasonable price. Of course, local health food stores often have excellent honey as well. My local store, New Seasons Market has a wide variety of local and raw honeys that are amazing.


Brands like Really Raw Honey and Honey Gardens are the solar opposite of ultra-filtered, manufactured honey. They are not heated or filtered in any way so they contain all of the beneficial traces of pollen, propolis and beeswax. They also taste amazing.


For more information on honey laundering, browse the following links.


I am grateful for the USA beekeepers that work so hard to give us such lovely honey to buy that is safe too. Do you have any favorite local honey brands or raw honey brands?