- A high demand and lack of regulation make honey susceptible to fraudulence.
- An estimated one-third of all honey is fake!
- Honey manufacturers take part in nefarious practices to cut costs and boost production.
- A good amount of honey on grocery-store shelves consists of a fraction of real honey that’s been diluted with high fructose corn syrup and other simple syrups.
What We’re Covering
Today, we’re shining a light on the dark side of the honey industry and why fake honey is a serious problem. Plus, I’m giving you all the details for how to find and source honey that’s 100 percent real.
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Let’s jump in!
Why Fake Honey Is a Real Problem
According to an analysis by the Honey Authenticity Project, an estimated 33 percent of all honey on the market is fake, and in the US specifically, a whopping 70 percent is fake! 🤯
The US produced about 126 million pounds of honey in 2021, but between packaged food and grocery retail, Americans consume a total of nearly 618 million pounds annually—that’s a pretty big difference to account for!
So where do we get the excess honey that we’re consuming that’s not produced here in the US? A lot of it comes from lower-quality honey imported from China.
The problem with Chinese-imported honey is that it’s made from questionable pollen sources that are often hard to identify, and pollen traceability is the primary way to screen for honey authenticity.
But that’s not even the most messed-up part!
Many large-scale honey and processed-food producers don’t care where their honey is coming from, as long as they can produce large enough quantities at a cheap enough price to make the most profit.
But it doesn’t stop there: Big Honey corporations often cut their products with high fructose corn syrup and other simple syrups to sell them at an even cheaper price.
This is known as “honey laundering” and it can get food producers in serious trouble. As you’ll learn in this next part, however, the FDA usually doesn’t step in unless there are safety concerns—they just don’t have the bandwidth.
The Government Doesn’t Have the Bandwith, So It’s Up to Us
The USDA, EPA, and Federal Trade Commission split up their priorities when it comes to honey regulation and rarely communicate with each other to make sure they’re monitoring all areas.
Additionally, safety is their number-one concern—and fraudulence doesn’t even make the list!
The FDA strongly advises against misbranding and has given guidelines to manufacturers for proper labeling, but when there’s an opportunity for profit, bad actors will look to cut corners.
That’s why it’s so important for us to become aware of and use our dollars to support and “vote for” brands that provide true transparency.
Fake Honey Is Bad for Us, Bad for the Environment, and Bad for Bees
The result of all these honey lies? Low-grade honey that’s nothing but a blend of sugary syrup and contains little to none of the immune-supporting, antimicrobial, and health-affirming properties of real honey that we’re all looking to get out of our jar of the sweet stuff.
Fake honey is not only misleading well-intentioned consumers, but it’s also bad for the bees, beekeepers, and the environment. Small-scale beekeepers often can’t compete with market prices, and many are forced to rent out their bee colonies for mass pollination instead.
This increases the risk of disease and pesticide contamination and has resulted in record-breaking deaths in bee colonies. Plus, it is not an uncommon practice to feed bees high fructose corn syrup to boost honey production and keep up with demand.
All of this is fueling the rise in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a major problem that has massive implications for farmers as it continues to decimate bee populations worldwide.
The number-one way you can ensure you’re sourcing real, high-quality honey is to know your local beekeeper and buy from them.
- Know your local beekeeper. Oftentimes you’ll find local honey at farmer’s markets, natural food stores, or co-ops. You can also try using this local honey finder to find local honey near you.
- My Favorite Honey Brands
- Y.S. Eco Bee Farms. This is my go-to for high-quality honey because it is easy to find at any Whole Foods, and most natural food stores carry it. Y.S. Eco Bee Farms is a pioneer in eco-friendly and sustainable beekeeping practices and all of their raw, unfiltered, organic honey must adhere to strict feeding and hive management standards.
- Comvita Manuka Honey. I’m a big fan of manuka honey, a special type of honey that is actually thought to be more of a medicine than a food. Real manuka honey actually has a rating system called Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) on every bottle, which goes from UMF5+ to UMF20+ based on its potency and antibacterial activity.Manuka honey is most known for its effects on healing wounds, skin health, gut health, and immunity. I take a spoonful or two when I feel a sore throat coming on, and I can feel a significant difference in the pain and swelling within a day.If you want to try Comvita’s manuka honey for yourself, you can use my friend and business partner Dr. Mark Hyman’s code, hyman25, at checkout for 25% off your purchase.
- Beekeeper’s Naturals. Beekeeper’s Naturals is another brand I love and respect when it comes to responsible honey production because they pride themselves on sustainability and quality. Their honey and honey-based products only use the cleanest ingredients and are third-party tested to provide the transparency that they’re pesticide-free.
Final Thoughts and an Important Reminder
When it’s real, honey can offer remarkable health benefits. When it’s fake, it’s nothing short of a blended mix of processed sugar.
Even though this is a harsh truth and we need to be aware of what goes on in the honey industry, we also don’t need to obsess over it.
As my friend Max Lugavere puts it, “Don’t major in minor things.”
Finding the right type of honey shouldn’t be your first priority when it comes to your health goals. And the same thing goes for all of our other Try This swaps.
There are plenty of other, more important things to focus on when it comes to health optimization. Honey is a small piece of the puzzle, though, and knowing what to look for (and what to avoid) on the grocery store shelves is a good reminder that we’re always voting with our money.
And companies are listening all the time! Our collective purchasing power has the ability to influence markets, and once the demands shift, they follow with creating better options and making them more widely available.
Here’s to your health and voting with our dollars,