Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When Honey isn't Honey

You know what honey is. Of course you do. It's that stuff the bees make. It's amber and thick and sticky and comes in old fashioned glass jars with big bold letters: HONEY. It's the stuff that Winnie the Pooh loves.

It's pure and it's good and it's good for you.

Honey is honey.

And maple syrup is maple syrup.

And you can't take a bottle of colored corn syrup and call it maple syrup. After all, there are laws!

But in New York State and in many other states that same bottle of colored corn syrup might be labeled as honey and sitting on a shelf at your local supermarket. It's being done -- and worse.

A recent article in Food Safety News bore this disturbing headline: "Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves." It reported that a third or more of the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals or concocted without the help of bees from artificial sweeteners.

The FDA claims it doesn't have the resources to adequately monitor the situation.

The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that most states, including New York State do not have a standard of identity for honey. So products adulterated with cheap concoctions of sweeteners are being labeled and sold as honey in New York State.

Surprised? So was I.

The Empire State Honey Producers Association has been lobbying the New York State Legislature to pass a Standard of Identity for honey. There are bills in both the Senate and the Assembly. Senator Joseph Griffo is a sponsor of the State Senate bill.

"The objective is to ensure that it's a quality product, it's a pure product with a standard that becomes associated with New York State so that it's a premier product that will be a benefit to the state of New York," said Griffo.

The bills in the Assembly and Senate are stalled. Apparently "pure honey" is something that is negotiable and the Senate and Assembly are still negotiating while New York State consumers are left unprotected from the most basic truth in labeling.

While the legislators fiddle, you might find yourself a local beekeeper who knows what honey is and where it comes from. There never was a better reason to buy local.

You can read more about the efforts of the Empire State Honey Producers Association to get a standard of identity established for honey sold in New York State by visiting

1 comment:

  1. "Well, what can I tell you?" You become a beekeeper to get away from politics and look what happens. I will not exacerbate the situation by asking if the legislators who are holding things up are Democrat, Republican, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or Tea Partier. Just send me a case and I'll set up a roadside stand at my house and sell Real, Natural, 100% Pure, made by real Honey Bees from real flowers that grow in the meadowlands of a good friend of mine in Upstate NY. I'll offer to take a polygraph test if they buy 10 pounds or more. I'll give a 10% discount if they do not believe the state of anywhere can redefine Honey.