Sour news for sweet honey

When is honey the real thing? When it's unfiltered and pollen remains.

FREDERIC, Wis., November 29, 2011 — There is sour news about sweet honey in stores nationwide. A national report released this month again confirms that the commercial honey you buy in many major supermarkets is not what you think it is.

According to a Food Safety News analysis, commercial suppliers are knowingly distributing “ultra-filtered” honey, an extreme process that removes up to 100 percent of the natural pollen in honey.

The FSN study was conducted at Texas A&M University by Dr. Vaughn Bryant, professor of anthropology and director of the Palynology Research Laboratory.

The study shows when you shop at a national chain store and reach for a jar of honey on the shelf, don’t be surprised if it’s not “real” honey, the stuff with all the goodies the bees originally put in.

You may think you’re getting the real McCoy, but the Texas study and the federal government both follow the old Roman advice: caveat emptor. (Let the buyer beware.)

“In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey,” states the FSN report. It may look like honey, taste like honey, but it doesn’t measure up as complete honey.

Some of the major chains listed in the study as selling ultra-filtered honey are: Safeway, Kroger and King Soopers. Major drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy were also listed. And let us not forget the big discount outlets like: Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart.

If you want “pure” honey, you’ll get what you’re shopping for at local co-ops, farmer’s markets, natural-food stores, and national chains like Trader Joe’s.

“Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen,” the report states.

Bee + pollen = honey

The effective process of ultra filtration is great in the medical use of dialysis for blood treatments and water purification for tap water in our homes. But it is devastating in the process of honey, where we want nature’s healthy byproducts like proteins to remain in the product.

Why? Because honey is good for you!

“Researchers are turning up more and more new evidence of honey’s medical benefits in all directions,” states the Benefits of Honey website. “The benefits of honey don’t just stop at satisfying the palate; honey also offers incredible antiseptic, antioxidant and cleansing properties for our body and health.”

Many benefits are recorded in civilizations throughout history that reveal the use of honey for food and medicine in their cultures.

“Its powerful healing attributes have long been used thousands of years ago and known to promote healing for cuts, cure ailments and diseases, and correct health disorders for generations after generations,” states the BOH website.

The wonders of eating un-filtered honey are many for mankind. And unlike some foods, no one in history ever died from eating “real” honey, according to a Google search.

Ultra filtration not only removes important benefits of honey, it also hides where the honey comes from. The pollen in honey acts like an identification marker. For example, if a flower only comes from China then the pollen from that flower will be in the Chinese honey. But if the Chinese filter that pollen out, it’s nearly impossible to ID the honey as coming from China.

This identification is critical in fair-trade international rules. And the secret honey allows dishonest dumping in US markets by foreign governments and international suppliers.

“The tariffs were attached to the import of Chinese honey about two years ago because exporters there were ‘dumping’ it in the U.S. - selling it at a much lower price than its cost, which is about one-half what it costs U.S. honey producers,” states a report on, a science news organization. “The practice has almost ruined the market for domestic honey.”

Dr. Bryant is a leading investigator and researcher on the illegal dumping of honey in US markets.

“Now there are lots of shenanigans going on to avoid having to pay those tariffs, and the investigators are way behind in following them,” Bryant said in a Texas A&M report. “The beekeepers of the U.S. have been pleading with the FDA to enact stricter guidelines about accurate labeling for honey, but that is a long, slow process. Meanwhile, I’m trying to help out here and there, but it’s almost impossible to keep up.”

The FSN story, titled Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey, has drawn considerable comment and concern with honey eaters across the country.

“I’ve received over 7,000 emails since the story was published (November 7),” said journalist Andrew Schneider, who has written many stories on food safety. “I hope other reporters will follow up on this.”

It is likely the media will follow up on this story. But it may be almost impossible to keep up with the honey shenanigans of listed governments like China, India and Vietnam and others. But you can avoid their ultra-filtering tomfoolery by simply buying real honey at a reliable store, where the price is competitive and the product is cherished.

 In the end, when you reach for real honey at an honest store, you’re going to get just what you ask for.

You can email Wayne Anderson at or get a wider understanding of him on his website at


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Wayne Anderson

Wayne Anderson is a warm beekeeper in northwest Wisconsin, who travels the world as a freelance news correspondent for Communities at The Washington Times and other fine media, covering the wars in the Middle East, reporting on and running from pirates off the coast of East Africa and sharing with readers the wonders of beekeeping in the strangest places around the world. 

Buzz on Bees is a column promoting the love and life of God’s greatest pollinators on earth: The Honeybee. Send me your input and column ideas. And I will work as busy as a bee to get them in print.   

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