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Bad News, Your Store-Bought Honey Isn’t Real

You might as well put high-fructose corn syrup in your tea

Image via Wikipedia

If you, like most people, buy your honey from a standard grocery store, you may be bummed to learn it’s probably not real honey. While there might be some real honey in those bear-shaped bottles as a base, it’s likely been diluted with high-fructose corn syrup along with other not-so-healthy fillers. This is what industry experts call “laundered honey,” and what may surprise you most is that it can legally be labeled and sold as pure, unadulterated honey.

Some companies haven’t even been shy about it. According to NPR, one of the country’s biggest honey producers, Groeb Farms from Onsted, Michigan, admitted to buying massive amounts of laundered honey from Chinese exporters. Bee Local founder Damian Magista explained to Pop Sugar how this happens, saying,

“Large quantities of Chinese-produced honey are being 'dumped' illegally on the U.S. market. To curb the importation of chemical-ridden honey, the United States established high tariffs on honey imported from China. Taxes drive up prices, so big companies are essentially sneaking this honey in to keep their costs low.”

So it sounds like you either have the option of doing some research and paying a premium for real, pure honey or saving a few bucks and settling on honey-flavored sugar water. However, if you’re in the latter camp, you might want to consider the ethical dilemmas of mislabeled honey. For instance, because the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t come up with a standardized legal definition for honey, bottles of the golden liquid can be labeled 100 percent pure even though they might contain unsafe chemicals and additives—not to mention added and unnecessary sugars.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently putting bees on the endangered species list adds another dimension to this counterfeit honey problem. If we’re going to demand clearer labeling on our honey bottles, we’ll need to demand transparency from the beekeeping industry as well. As Magista says, “Bees are essential to our ecosystem and help pollinate produce, plants, and trees.” Losing these pollinator heavyweights could have a serious impact on the world’s food supply, something we probably need to prioritize if we plan to keep eating food, let alone honey.

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