Here's some not-so-sweet news: As much as three-quarters of honey on store shelves isn't real, according to Food Safety News. So what have I been putting in my oatmeal every morning?
Researchers tested more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey on the criteria that honey is considered "real" if it contains pollen, which is the scientific identity standard for honey. Researchers found that 76 percent of grocery store honey, 77 percent of the honey found at mass merchandisers such as Costco and all of drugstore honey in the study did not contain pollen. So how can you get your money's worth for honey?
"The main problem in the honey industry is that without pollen, one cannot definitively prove that honey is honey or its origin," says Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers. "And the FDA has not put forth a standard of identity for honey, nor do they test all honey."
Honey has more health benefits with the pollen, which contains compounds and plant bioflavonoids, better known as antioxidants. But Jensen says consumers complain that honey crystallizes and granulates too quickly, so most honey is heated and microfiltered to remove all particulate matter, including the pollen, that might speed up crystallization. Consumers want an absolutely clear honey with a long shelf life, Jensen says.
So, for frugal shoppers who want all the health benefits of pure honey with the pollen, which honey is worth the money?
- Choose raw honey, which ideally has nothing removed or added.
- Read labels carefully and look for phrases such as "distributed by" or "packaged by," which are tipoffs to mass-merchandised, microfiltered honey.
- Look for label specifics about the origin, farm or production of the honey.
- Buy locally from farmers markets or a local beekeeper who sells what his bees made. Ask if the honey has been heated above 110 degrees or if it has been microfiltered.
Jensen says you can't tell real, raw honey by its price because it may or may not cost more than the other honey on store shelves. "Real, raw honey will likely appear darker and a little cloudier and also granulate quicker, but that's what makes it real," says Jensen.
Did you run to check your honey label like I did?