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What is fake honey?

By Staff | Jun 22, 2012


Special to The Breeze

I can hear Desi Arnaz, (Ricky Ricardo) saying, “You got some ‘splainen to do, Lucy.” I’ve been getting questions about my statement, “Now you tell me there is fake honey!”

Question-what is fake honey?

To begin with, we must ask, what is honey? According to the World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius for Honey, “Honey is the natural sweet substance, produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or from secretions of living parts of plants or excretions of plant-sucking insects on the living parts plants, which the bees collect, transform by combining with specific substances of their own, deposit, dehydrate, store and leave in honeycombs to ripen and mature.”

Describing honey, they say, “Honey consists essentially of different sugars predominantly glucose and fructose. The color of honey varies from nearly colorless to dark brown. The consistency can be fluid, viscous or partly to entirely crystallized. The flavor and aroma vary, but usually derived from the plant origin.” Enforcement of these standards varies by countries. The United States has no enforcement or inspection. It may carry the USDA seal, but there are few federal standards or government certification and no consequences for false claims. Your best answer is to know your producer.

Fake honey started when China flooded the market with cheap honey, only it had contaminates in it about a decade ago. Smuckers and Sara Lee had to recall 12,000 cases of honey and half a million loaves of bread. Pollen gives honey a DNA, it tells where honey comes from. When honey from China was banned (some say it was to protect the American beekeepers), China began the backdoor trick. They sent it to India, where it was mixed with Indian pollen honey, then on to the good ol’ USA. Then ultra-filtration began to erase the pollen. They say it was to eliminate impurities. Now, 76 percent of all honey on store shelves is pollen free. Even Winnie the Pooh!

Real honey is expensive and provides anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. There are three basic classes of honey: natural or pure made from raw honey; adulterated, which contains some natural honey plus other ingredients; and then imitation or artificial honey made from sugar or corn syrups with additives and food coloring.

Ways to tell real from fake is to rub some between your fingers. Being absorbed by your skin is natural for honey, it is not sticky. Sticky means it contains sugar or artificial sweetener. Place a drop on a paper towel. Pure honey won’t penetrate for a long time because honey contains no water. Pure honey contains 0 percent water because water promotes fungi and bees don’t want that in their hives.

Place a drop near ants. Because bees place their nests in trees and rocks, they add an additive to their honey to protect it from pests, ants won’t disturb natural honey. Fill a glass of water and add a tablespoon of honey. Pure honey will sit in a lump at the bottom of the glass, whereas, artificial honey starts to dissolve. See if it crystallizes with time. This is good, frustrating, but good. This used to bother me, because I then had to dip the jar of honey in warm water to make it clear and runny again. Which is also one of the reasons manufacturers adulterate it. People get alarmed with crystallized honey.

To be classified as real honey, it must contain some pollen. It is in this pollen that you obtain the antifungal and anti-inflammatory abilities. The US Food and Drug Administration states that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen is not honey. We have learned and believe that pasteurization of milk is beneficial to our health. That belief helps some people believe it is good for honey.

No pasteurization, heating or straining is used with raw honey. But it is what honey bees inject into raw honey that makes it extraordinary. These “magical ingredients,” honey enzymes and important antioxidants, cannot be beat by any other product for its health and medicinal uses.

Propolis is a substance honeybees make that provides protection against harmful bacteria, virus and fungi. It is a plant resin collected for use in and around the hive. Proplis is bee glue with flavenoid plant compounds that have antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti fungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory propensities. Other properties include a local anesthetic, reducing spasms, healing gastric ulcer and strengthening capallaries.

With any type of raw foods, there is a risk of botulism spores lurking within, but adult digestive systems have developed enough to kill them off. That is why there is a warning about feeding honey to babies under 1 year old.

You do not need to refrigerate an open jar of honey. Keep it away from sunlight and don’t heat honey to high heats that kill the beneficial benefits. Many people believe that eating raw honey with pollen from the area around where they live, helps cure allergies, or try a teaspoonful for cough syrup.

Honey has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Raw honey naturally contains the necessary components to produce food grade hydrogen peroxide. The glucose oxidase in honey reacts with the sodium and PH content in your skin causing the glucose to break down into hydrogen peroxide, making honey an excellent wound healer for burns.

It has been suggested that we should try putting in beehives for our own garden areas. I watched the episode of an interview with Michelle Obama and her garden at the White House where she had to convince the president to allow her hives to be put near his basketball courts. After explaining the nature of honeybees and their peacefulness, she succeeded. When I visited the National Arboretum in D.C., I toured the children’s garden and they had a small beehive operating at the edge. Don’t let fear prevent your helping the honeybees.

Love our honey bees and thank a tree.

Joyce Comingore is a master gardener; director of the board of the American Hibiscus Society; aboard member of the Fort Myers/Lee County Garden Council; Federated Ninth District Tree Chairman; and a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.