What are we Eating? – Let´s talk about honey

Honey is a well-known product all over the world and in any society. For example, in some prehistoric caves in Spain, some paintings are showing people enjoying the honey (Raj Joshi, 2008). The food and medicinal values of honey is a fact, and some studies...

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Honey is a well-known product all over the world and in any society. For example, in some prehistoric caves in Spain, some paintings are showing people enjoying the honey (Raj Joshi, 2008).

The food and medicinal values of honey is a fact, and some studies show positive nutritional and psychological effects (Bagdarov et al., 2008).

Beyond, honey has antimicrobial properties that help fighting against bacteria bodies’ infection, due to bacteria are not able to multiply in honey. Thus, if bacteria are found in honey, this would mean the contamination by a secondary resource like pesticides (National honey Board, 2008; Molan, 1999).

Honey consumption

Europe consumes 20-25% of the global honey consumption and produce 13% of the global honey production (the amount of honey we have to import is huge), making this product a good target for adulteration, not all countries have the same quality rules than Europe and antibiotic addition can come from the outside.

Honey adulteration

fructose-2-e1409104125921Despite there is important legislation behind all the honey market this has to be harder in order to preserve the consumer’s rights and health safety. Lately with some cases of honey adulteration by cheap honey full of antibiotics, plus syrups like HFCS, and the fact that with the poor quantity of pollen in honeys (making difficult to detect the fraud) persuaded authorities to improve current regulation.

A clear and new example is a Court case in 2011, where it has been decided to change some part of the legislation; jars of honey will have to be marked ‘contains pollen’. As well the European Court of Justice has decreed that pollen is an ingredient of honey rather than an intrinsic component. The judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 6 September 2011 in the case C-442/09 (Bablock vs Beyern) concluded “pollen is not a foreign substance or impurity of the honey, but rather a normal component of it which. According to the intention of the European Union legislature, cannot in principle be removed from it” (Hagenmeyer. 2011).

Consequences of fraud in honey

Economic gains, big companies get money selling honey that is not even honey, just a mix of syrups and other sugars.

We are also expose to serious health problems, this honeys contains high concentrations of fructose and with high temperatures this will transform into HFCS, which is related to obesity and cardiovascular problems (Chudzinska & Baralkiewicz, 2010).

And last but not least, the environmental problem; Honeybees Collapsed Disorder will increase, to produce more honey the companies will feed bees with sugars (which damage their immune system) killing the sweet insects. And just after this honeybees population loss we will have an ecological disaster; pollination will be over (Ruiz-Mature et al. 2007).

Future in honey-What can we do?

Regarding to future for this market is very stable, but the threat of possible adulteration in the market is getting higher, mostly because of the globalisation and the honey bees’ population loss, which make us to request a stronger legislation.

In conclusion, in order to avoid the fraud cases, it should be done:

  1. Stronger and clearer legislation: Still there is a lot of legislation, the authorities have to work in stronger one, asking for more and clear information in the labels.
  2. More control: To introduce more controls, and controllers into the companies, especially the big ones.
  3. Change consumptions habits, in order to protect the old style of honey production: As consumers we have the duty to ask for honey without antibiotics or any other chemical that threat our health and the environment.

At the end “We are what we eat”. I strongly recommend you to check twice every label you can find in jars or packages. We have the power to demand better food quality, and we will only get it if we became “Critical Consumers”.

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Read more at:

  • Raj Joshi, S.2008. Honey in Nepal: Approach, Strategy and Intervention for Subsector Promotion. Partner for the Future Worldwide. pp. 1-5.
  • Bagdanov, S. and Martin, P. 2002. Honey Authenticity: A Review. Swiss Bee Research Centre.pp: 1-3.
  • National Honey Board. 2008. Honey: A reference Guide to Nature´s Sweetener. 
  • Hagenmeyer, M. 2011. ECJ Decision ignores EU Law in Honey/Pollen Case. EFFL5.pp: 291-293.
  • Chudzinska, M. and Baralkiewicz, D. 2010. Estimation of honey authenticity by multielements characteristics using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) combined with chemometrics. Food and Chemical Toxicology 48: 284-290.
  • Ruiz-Matute. A.I., Weiss, M., Sammataro, D., Finely, J. and Sanz, M.L.2010. Carbohydrate composition of high-fructose corn syrups (HFCS) used for bee feeding: effect on honey compositionJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 58 (12): 7317–22.
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