Too good to be true: if you’ve bought ultra-cheap honey from a supermarket, you’ve probably just been scammed! After milk and olive oil, honey is the most adulterated food in the world.
Real honey that we love is produced in hives by bees. The bees collect nectar and honeydew direct from plants, store it in the hexagonal honeycomb cells, add some magic enzymes and flap their wings like mad to evaporate extra water. Hey presto: ripe honey with less than 20% water (23% for heather honey). All the beekeeper does is extract ripe honey from the honeycomb, filter out any odd bits of wax and put it into jars.
Real honey takes massive effort by both the bees and beekeepers. It’s not a cheap product but extra special like the best champagne, chocolate or truffles. Like any premium foodstuff, low cost should make you suspicious.
The fraudsters have caught on. Now there is an international trade in synthetic, adulterated honey. All around the world, Governments, legal authorities, food safety organisations, Trading Standards and beekeepers use a range of different tests in their battle against the swindlers. But the criminals have become just as sophisticated. Some scammers extract the nectar as soon as it has been collected by the bees and then remove the water in factories. Other lawbreakers create complicated sugar syrups in their attempts to fool the tests and pass off their fake jars. Some syrups contain distinctly troubling ingredients that you probably don’t want anywhere near your body. These are huge international frauds involving many countries, misleading labelling and massive amounts of money. In contrast, the authorities tasked with keeping our food safe and truthful seem to lack the resources to fight the fake honey battle.
The consequences are worse than just “honey” getting a bad reputation. Legitimate beekeepers and honey producers are facing an uphill battle competing against the fraudsters. Many go out of business when shoppers turn their spending power to the cheap substitute. Less beekeepers means less bees and less pollination of our key food crops. Everyone loses out simply to line the pockets of the fraudsters.
In these times of financial pressure, you may be happy with the synthetic, sticky sweet stuff but don’t assume it is actual honey. If you want authenticity, check the jar label. Even better, find local beekeepers who offer the real deal.
Get Government to act – sign the petition and share with anyone who might be interested: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/624402/?fbclid=IwAR0Uw9OxM_YuANGmknOtlDWUCkj_w0heXOEvzboEJ1MGwH8a0wAuhPQSoL0
And my thanks to Somerset’s Master Beekeeper Lynne Ingram for revealing this sticky topic at the Hampshire Beekeepers’ Convention on Saturday. The sous-chef’s presentations were all about the dreaded Asian Hornet -fascinating but less appetising! Although I’m blind, I could hear all the fascinating information throughout the day and my taste buds are honed for tasting real honey!