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Jan 7, 2011 07:18 PM

Honey Laundering? Is Your Honey Safe?

From today's news cycle come the issue of contaminated and adulterated (the banned antibiotic chloramphenicol, which is IN the honey) Chinese-produced honey being "laundered" through other East Asian countries:

Fascinating article. Scary story. Call your representatives. Buy American or Canadian.

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  1. Chicken Little jitters aside, I've never seen Asian-origin honey around Toronto. It's one thing I do buy regularly from local producers.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kagemusha

      Agreed - buy local or raise your own.

      When we travel we'll stop for road side
      honey stands.

      I raised bees for 4-H and want to get back into it.
      It's hard when you live in a city.

      1. re: Kagemusha

        Kagemusha: That's great. The scariest part of this (to me) is not the adulteration, it's that China's dumping vast quantities of honey onto the N. American markets, and that's driving domestic producers out of business. If this continues, you may not have local producers to buy from.`

        1. re: kaleokahu

          Local honey isn't hard to source around southern Ontario where demand is strong. Where I did see a problem is with supermarkets catering Eastern European customers where I saw loads of imported honey over Xmas with somewhat sketchy origins. They stuff I buy is produced by apiaries who sell a superior product for the same or less than the supermarket brands.

      2. check all food labels and don't consume anything made in China.

        3 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          smartie: Did you read the article? It's about how the Chinese are HIDING the true country origin--making it seem like it's coming from India, Russia and elsewhere. In other words, you can't trust what's on the label.

          1. re: kaleokahu

            As kaleokahu stated; China is dumping vast amounts of honey on the market The old brand "Orange Blossom" is now using Chinese Honey. ONLY buy verified local honey from reputable beekeepers!!!

            1. re: kaleokahu

              wow, didn't read it just the OP - I always buy local honey from green markets anyhow, but of course that doesn't stop the garbage ending up in store bought or restaurant honey mustard dressings and other things with honey. I wonder about a lot of items that don't say country of origin just 'distributed by' .....

              I have become a real 'read the label freak' - for example was annoyed to find canned Del Monte mandarins are from China a couple years back so have stopped buying those.

          2. Stories like these are part of why I buy very few processed foods anymore. Besides the fact that when I (rarely) eat processed foods, I inevitably think "I could make this soooo much better at home," there are thorny issues like these! Ruhlman and his followers make some good points:

            19 Replies
            1. re: amyzan

              I hear you, but honey is by its nature processed, by bees. You may be able to make a lot of things "soooo much better at home," but you can't make honey at home, unless you are a bee. Which you probably are not (please correct me if I'm wrong - maybe you are a bee. With access to the internet. I suppose it could happen).

              You can choose from whom you buy your honey, but you cannot choose whether or not your honey is processed. It is always processed. By bees.

              1. re: small h

                smallh Visit a local beekeeper, and see if he/she is selling "Raw and Unfiltered Honey" and learn to recognize what it should look like. Most small production 'keepers are proud of what their bees produce.

                1. re: ospreycove

                  I'm familiar with raw, unfiltered honey. Several vendors sell it at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan, which is where I do much of my food shopping. My point is that "processed" is not a synonym for "dangerous" or "unhealthy." Nor is "non-processed" a synonym for "virtuous" or "natural." You can't make honey without processing nectar, just as you can't make olive oil without processing olives, nor flour without processing wheat. And yet no one decries the use of these processed foods.

                  1. re: small h

                    small h I believe the confusion comes in where you are using a more accurate definition of "Processed" ; in the locovar movement processed foods have come to mean overly processed, refined, adultrated, stripped of bran hull etc., and hyped with additives not thought to be good for one's health.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      Oh, I know that. I'm trying to stop it. And it's "locavore." Unless there's some new word that's a hybrid of "local" and "cultivar" (or something) that I don't yet know.

                      1. re: small h

                        small h, Maybe that was subliminal on my part, As in slightly loco, as some tend to be loco and voracious????? Sounnds good , shooting from the

                        1. re: ospreycove

                          Ooh, that one did not occur to me. Locovore = crazy eater. Nice!

                  2. re: ospreycove

                    I stick with orange blossom honey from Florida. Not sure if the Chinese stuff is getting mixed in but I will buy from organic farms when available.

                  3. re: small h

                    Okay, I get your POV. So, please tell me how to describe foods like honey graham crackers, honey mustard dressing, and the like? This is what I didn't clearly enough describe for your liking. So, tell me what word or words you prefer to describe manufactured products that can be reproduced at home at lower cost, and with fewer and often fresher ingredients. I'm dying to know.

                    and no, I am not a bee, but my grandfather was a bee keeper. I am also not a locavore, though I do love the farmer's markets and have a garden.

                    1. re: amyzan

                      <So, tell me what word or words you prefer to describe manufactured products that can be reproduced at home at lower cost, and with fewer and often fresher ingredients.>


                      1. re: small h

                        No, "homemade" does not describe these products. Reread my request.

                        1. re: amyzan

                          I did, and I can't figure out how something you make at home could be called anything other than homemade. You can buy mayonnaise in a jar at the supermarket, or you can make it at home. Both are processed. One is homemade. What am I missing, here?

                          1. re: small h

                            I asked you for a term to describe manufactured outside the home products like bottled salad dressing, graham crackers wrapped in plastic and packaged in a box you buy off the shelf at a grocery. If these aren't accurately described as "processed," I kindly request another word you find more descriptive. I'm entirely open to suggestions.

                            1. re: amyzan

                              Oh, I thought you wanted a word to describe foods made in your home. But if you'd like a word to describe food made outside of your home, I suggest "store-bought."

                              1. re: small h

                                If there's anything I've learned here at Chowhound, it's that hounds are often a particular lot when it comes to language. I'm a bit confused, however, because I can buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the store, and yet, they are not products I would describe as heavily processed. I do a lot of shopping at stores, actually, but buy very little that I can make at home. So, how do I describe that to your satisfaction? It sounds as if you didn't immediately ascertain from my OP what products I was saying I didn't buy by referring to them as "processed foods."

                                1. re: amyzan

                                  Well, now I'm confused. You asked me about bottled salad dressing and packaged graham crackers. Now you've decided you actually mean fresh fruits and vegetables. Let's go back to your original post, in which you state that you buy "very few processed foods anymore"; it seems like you believe this will help protect you from terrifying, possibly deadly, Chinese honey. My point was, and still is, that there's simply no connection between eschewing processed foods and avoiding terrifying, possibly deadly, Chinese honey, since honey, Chinese or otherwise, is always processed. It seems as though you're looking for a word that means "amyzan-approved." I can't help you, there, unfortunately, since there's probably a lot about you I don't know.

                                  1. re: small h

                                    Nowhere did I mention fear, of food or death, or anything of the sort. Gosh, take a deep breath, small h. The honey story is only one of the many reasons I mostly cook at home. There are many other reasons, including thrift, health, taste, and working from home, to name a few.

                                    I'm asking you what adjective will adequately describe often ready to eat, often store bought foods like graham crackers and bottled salad dressing. You took umbrage with "processed." I raised an objection with your suggestion of "store-bought" because it's not an accurate descriptor. My point was that there are ALL kinds of food that can be described as "store bought" which are not "processed." I apologize if I was unclear. We simply haven't found an adequate word yet.

                                    1. re: amyzan

                                      <My point was that there are ALL kinds of food that can be described as "store bought" which are not "processed.">

                                      This is very true. And we would doubtless agree that it's not that useful to describe an apple as store-bought, even when it is, because the difference between a store-bought apple and a picked-off-a-tree-with-one's-very-own-hand apple is not vast. (Yes, yes, we could go there. But just for today, let's not.)

                                      My objection to the word "processed" is, as I've stated elsewhere on this thread, and will continue to do, because I am a very fast typist with plenty of time on my hands, this week, anyway, is that it's become a curse, a lazy, shorthand sort of way to describe all that is wrong with the food supply, in much the same way that "local" and before that, "organic," bestow blessings.

                                      So I offer instead: mass-produced. It's accurate, it's fairly neutral, and it even has a few noble opposites, like "small-batch" and "artisanal," for those want to set themselves apart from consumers of bottled salad dressing and packaged graham crackers. Deal?

                                      And I have to ask - do you actually make your own graham crackers? I make my own flour tortillas and pita bread, and people think I'm nuts for doing that (it's cheaper, is why).

                                      1. re: small h

                                        "Mass produced," I like it and it works well, thanks. I figured that we were more like minded than not, small h.

                                        I haven't had cause to make graham crackers yet, but yes, many people think I'm a little nuts for cooking, baking, etc. as much as I do. I put up pickles with cukes from the garden, dehydrate or freeze or can tomatoes, jam, chutney, etc. Make my own pie crusts and bread, english muffins, cookies, etc. Freeze chicken broth (but I do buy aseptic packs from time to time, especially if a work deadline looms.) A lot of this is just batch and freeze, plan ahead household skills. But, it freaks people out a little, and some just can't get over it. I still remember the family friend who kept exclaiming over and over "Nobody makes pie anymore!" when I served strawberry rhubarb pie with homemade crust.

                2. Wow. By the title, I expected another yawner filled with ridiculous claims, but... Wow.

                  My concern isn't with buying honey, but honey products. Looking around, I have a Kashi bar with honey as an ingredient. Did that honey come from somewhere suspicious? Well, given the rep that Kashi has, probably not, but now I have to actually look it up for all products with honey.

                  Anyway, that was a good read, kale.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: ediblover

                    Please don't go by rep. There was a recent concern about hexane used to extract soy products, and it was all over the natural foods industry. One just can't assume any longer.

                    1. re: amyzan

                      I emphasize science and facts. I'm not concerned about hexane in soy/grains.

                    2. re: ediblover

                      I look at honey labels and they usually say "product of USA" (however I almost always buy honey direct from the producer at the farmers market). I would guess that most of this cheap Chinese honey is going into mass produced commercial products (like graham crackers and cereals) whose producers are buying buy the ton, and not so much into the little bears on your table.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        My husband recently bought a plastic honey bear from the Grocery Outlet. The label says Forelli, so he thought it was Italian. I had to use a magnifying glass to find the words "Imported from Vietnam by Allied Foods." It was only .99, so I'll probably toss it.. Trader Joe's honey is made in the US, but obviously stuff from the farmers market is even more local. Also more expensive. Decisions, decisions.

                        1. re: Glencora

                          Sneaky, Allied Foods! My housemate uses a lot of honey, so I get her the big jugs of clover honey at Costco. IIRC it said "product of USA" on it.

                    3. Hmmm... Seems like I read this article in the Seattle PI or Seattle Times a couple years ago.