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You're So Good For Me, Honey! Aren't You?
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You\'re so Good for Me, Honey! Aren\'t You?

No doubt about it, honey is one of the most amazing foods around. It has wonderful medicinal and healing properties and yet it tastes sooo yummy. But all honey is not created equal. Oh, the honeybees work hard enough alright, but much of the honey on the shelf at the store for your selection is processed, thinned out, has artificial ingredients. Some honey out there isn't even honey from honeybees at all! These kinds of impostor honeys are not only robbed of its magical powers and therefore useless in your teas, granolas, cookies and hot-totties, but it is actually bad for you and extremely hard on the environment.

What?? Well how do I know which ones are pure? The scoop is, although illegal (The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that any product that's been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen IS NOT honey), barrels and barrels full of ultra-processed honey sneaks its way over here from China and then bottled and labeled as Pure or Natural Honey. Some of it doesn't even have a trace of pollen in it; instead its a mixture of sugar water, malt sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup or rice syrup, jaggery, barley malt sweetener and other additives. Oh, and don't forget that much of this "honey" is tainted with illegal antibiotics, including chloramphenicol, which can cause DNA damage and cancer, and heavy metals like lead.

Gross! I feel tricked! Which companies were tested to not be real honey? Well, unfortunately the testing done in 2011 by Vaughn Bryant, (who is a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation's premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey) showed that most of the popular brands didn't contain any pollen, which means that it's almost impossible to tell what part of the world it came from. This list was looong and included brands that most Americans have sitting in their pantry, so here's your best bet guide: If you know where it comes from (It should SAY on the LABEL of your honey. If not, maybe they are not telling you for a reason...) and you buy the honey organic or from a local beekeeper that is nowhere near pesticide use, you're good.

Here is a list of countries that have the HIGHEST RISK of having exported "fake" honey to us: (This list provided by the True Source Certified Honey Industry Center of Information's Origin Traceability Certification)

  • India
  • Vietnam
  • China (medium risk level)
  • Ukraine (medium risk level)
  • Australia (medium risk level)

The lowest risk countries of having anything but pure honey were:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Guatemala
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • United States
  • Uruguay

So, if your honey comes from anyplace on the second list, and is organic, you're probably buying good stuff.

Most of the honey companies feel that the honey should be very clear and thin enough to squirt out of those spouts at the top of those bear head bottles, so they strain every matter out that isn't clear. There are different straining intensities and the strongest processing doesn't allow the pollen to get through the filter. Now, that doesn't automatically make it full of harmful or artificial ingredients, but it is almost impossible to tell where it's really coming from if the label on the bottle doesn't state where the HONEY is from. (Don't get confused at the address of the company: that just means business offices, not where the honey is produced). But all the medicinal properties come from the honey that does contain pollen, and the more "raw" matter the honey has, the more healthy benefits. So, instead of a list of the possibly "bad" honey brands, you may be better off reading a list of recommended brands that definitely contain all the benefits honey has to offer.

The best way to know exactly where your honey comes from is by buying from a local beekeeper, but most folks need it to be on the shelf at the grocery store that they shop at, in which case, looking for the Certified Organic brand would be the quickest and best bet. If you happen to shop at a health food store or Trader Joe's, you'll have much better selection of "the good stuff".

Street Talk

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