I’ll give you three really great reasons to eat local honey.
According to Boston beekeeper Mike Graney, large honey producers primarily depend on enormous clover fields. That’s why most people only know the taste of clover honey.
On his website (eatlocalhoney.com) Mike explains: “In New England, the sheer diversity of flora makes for honey that has a much more complex flavor profile than honey from anywhere else.”
In fact, as the season progresses, Mike says the taste of his honey changes according to what plants are flowering when the honey is harvested.
TWO: Allergy symptom prevention
My colleague Maryann has successfully overcome many of the woes of spring and summer allergies by eating local honey.
She says: “You’re basically building up your system’s defenses against allergens in your environment, since you’re taking it in after the bees have processed it.”
Maryann also sent me a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article that just might turn you into a big fan of local honey – whether or not you suffer from allergies.
Because it brings us to…
THREE: Mass produced honey can actually be dangerous
According to a five-month Seattle P-I investigation, more than 60 percent of honey consumed in the U.S. is imported. About half of that honey comes from China, but it doesn’t take a direct route.
A large portion of Chinese honey is sent to other countries in Asia and the South Pacific. There, the country-of-origin is purposely mislabeled before the honey is shipped off to the U.S. and other countries.
The idea, obviously, is to give honey producers the impression that the honey is from anywhere but China.
This practice is called “honey laundering.” (Nope, I’m not kidding.)
And besides being deceptive, it can be dangerous because Chinese honey sometimes contains chloramphenicol, an illegal antibiotic with harsh side effects – especially for those who have a sensitivity to the drug.
But here’s the heart of the problem: When chloramphenicol contamination is discovered, honey producers usually send it back to the importer. The FDA is rarely contacted, so unscrupulous importers are free to simply ship the honey to a different producer, hoping the antibiotic won’t be detected on the second pass.
An executive for Sue Bee (one of the largest honey packers in the U.S.) told the Seattle P-I that chloramphenicol is detected in honey about once a month. When found, it’s sent back to the importer. Bill Allibone, president of Sue Bee, explains that the FDA isn’t informed because the company never actually takes ownership of the honey.
Allibone: “We’re assuming that when we reject a load of honey, they’ll return it to the people they purchased it from.”
When Seattle P-I asked Allibone if his company had an obligation to contact the FDA to help protect public health, he said, “It’s just not our honey.”
Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested several Chinese importers for smuggling millions of dollars worth of honey into the U.S.
That’s a good start. But just a start.
Andrew Schneider, the author of the Seattle P-I article, adds this note on his website (andrewschneiderinvestigates.com): “This could never happen unless honey packers and sellers in the U.S. were involved.”
If you can’t find local honey in your area, an excellent alternative is raw honey. You can read more about raw honey here.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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