One of the trends in recent years has been toward a healthier diet. Let’s face it the average American diet consists to a large degree of trash and junk food that is not very nutritious and loaded with additives such as msg. With that trend toward concern over food quality we have seen an explosive growth in Farmer’s Markets.
Twenty years ago when I began to become really interested in nutrition and healthful food there were perhaps two weekly farmer’s markets in the Portland, Oregon area where I live. Now? Now there are farmer’s markets every day of the week in different locations and sometimes two or three.
With the growth in the market for healthful food has come a new niche market for crooks and scoundrels. Reports coming out of the Los Angeles area are that some of the supposedly locally grown produce in some markets is not. Not local that is. Instead some stands have been caught representing their produce as local when it was actually purchased from the local produce wholesaler, which means it could come from just about anywhere. As well some supermarket chains have attempted to set up parking lot stands and try to represent them as a farmer’s market.
Now we have a report coming out of Food Safety News giving the results of their independent testing of honey and SURPRISE about three quarters of the brands sampled do not qualify as real honey. Instead per the test report, Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey, absent was any trace of pollen which is a key marker in real honey. It allows the source of the honey to be determined and it is one of the healthful factors in honey. Oh, these products may have honey in them but because of ultra filtering and heating, which helps hide the origin e.g., China, all of the pollen, and most of the nutrition, has been removed. It also leaves open the possibility that the “honey” has been adulterated or watered down with High Fructose Corn Syrup, or other adulterants.
Per the study results, conducted at Texas A&M University, 76% of the honey’s sampled from grocery stores contained no discernible pollen which is the marker for real honey. All truly natural, and minimally processed, honeys will have traces of pollen and this is a healthy thing. Stores where the samples were purchased included such big names as Safeway, Kroger, and QFC. 100% of the honeys purchased at Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, and CVS had no pollen.
The good news is that 100% of the honey purchased at Farmer’s Markets and natural food stores such as Trader Joe’s had the full expected amount of polllen. One of the comments by Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, who was interviewed by Food Safety News is telling: “In my judgment, it is pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it’s even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law,”
Unsurprisingly the FDA is showing no interest in correcting the problem. However, on the positive side Honey Producers, in defense of their own pure product, have taken the initiative to help correct the problem. Under pressure of local beekeepers Florida was the first state to enact legislation regarding the purity of honey. Florida has been followed by a succession of states who have instituted their own standards of certification. Included among the states are Oregon, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Virginia, Ohio, and others.
If you are a fan of healthy and pure foods, including honey, I would highly recommend reading the full report linked earlier in this article as it provides extensive information including a list of tested brands that flunked. As always being an informed consumer and knowing what you are buying is important, and unfortunately tricky. One source of information on real legitimate honey is True Source which checks and verifies that honey meets their high standards. For a list of brands visit their web site here.