Beware of 76% Fake Honey!

By now, most of us know that refined sugars aren’t good for us or the kids; what is less known, however, is how to navigate the alternatives. One of the first options that you will find mentioned in the media and mainstream healthcare is honey, but as is the case with many foods, not all honey is created equal. Did you know that 76% of the honey sold in the US is fake? Read below to learn more about how to distinguish between real and fake honey, what to look out for, the problem with pasteurization, health benefits of honey and how much honey is safe to consume on a daily basis?

Beware the Fake Honey

Most people know that honey is a much healthier sweetener than sugar, however, navigating honey at your typical supermarket means wading through an immense amount of fake honey options. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the store-bought honey you have in your kitchen cabinets is most likely fake, devoid of essential nutrients and actually unhealthy to the body.

fake honey

Is fake honey common?

Yes, it is. According to research commissioned by Food Safety News, up to 70% of honey options found in US grocery stores are either fake honey, or have been processed to the point that the majority of food laws around the world would prevent them from being labeled as honey (1). 

The problems with conventionally sold honey

First, there are those that started out as honey, but have been processed to the point that the only parts left of its’ natural state are the sticky texture and the sweetness.

Then there are honey sauces and syrups—sometimes labeled as honey fructose. These tend to be mostly corn syrup with a small amount of honey added for flavor (2).

Another common culprit are sugar-free honeys. Honey is a product naturally high in sugar, which means that any sugar-free honey you find isn’t honey at all (2). Unless you have a medical reason to turn to this, pass it by; even if you do require sugar-free options, this should be used sparingly.

Then you will find the honeys that are listed as blended honey. This means that a portion of the product is pure honey—usually somewhere between 30% and 70%– and the rest is high-fructose corn syrup (2).

Finally, there are those companies that feel pure honey is not sweet enough, so they choose to add sugar—even whole pieces of rock sugar—to their jars of pure honey, negating any health benefits the honey might have offered (2).

What Are Some Differences Between Various Honey Options?

You might be surprised by how many differences there are. You have medical-grade vs food-grade honey, raw honey, organic honey, pasteurized honey, and more. Then there are the differences based on where the honey is made. Variables here can include the level of pollution, the weather, the soil, and even the ethics and legal restrictions found in the area where the honey was produced (3).

Medical-Grade Honey: This honey is exceptionally high in antimicrobial properties. These antimicrobial properties make it excellent to use when treating scrapes, cuts, and burns. Manuka honey is one of the most wildly-used forms of medical grade honey.

Food-Grade Honey: In essence, food-grade honey is anything that doesn’t qualify as medical grade. These honeys will not have as high of antimicrobial properties, but if you choose the correct brand, you will still experience health benefits.

Raw Honey: This is pure, unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed honey. In terms of preserving all the healthy elements of honey, consuming raw honey is vital.

Organic Honey: Organic honey is usually also raw honey, but not all raw honey is organic. Organic honey is made in an area that is free of fertilizers and pesticides, including the flowers where the bees gather their pollen.

Pasteurized Honey: This is honey that has been heated and treated to ensure than certain pathogens are not present. However, this process kills the healthy bacteria within honey, eliminating the vast majority of its natural health benefits.

More On Medical-Grade Honey vs Food-Grade Honey

As a mother, you want the very best for your children, so when you see medical-grade honey available for purchase, you might be tempted to select it over food-grade honey. In truth, you should have both in your home. Medical-grade honey is a powerful natural medicine due to its high level of anti-bacterial properties; use it when it is needed to treat injuries and illnesses, such as burns, cuts, coughs, sore-throats, and infections. However, you do not need to consume medical-grade honey on a daily basis as it is very expensive (3).

Some Ways to Use Medical-Grade Honey

1. Acne and Eczema: Apply medical-grade honey to the problem spots and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Once 2-5 minutes have passed, wash it away with a gentle soap.

2. MRSA: This antibiotic resistant staph infection has been causing havoc in hospitals for years. However, the antibiotic properties in medical-grade honey have been found to be effective against MRSA when modern antibiotics are not.

3. Burns and Other Wounds: Rather than turning to antibiotic ointment or burn creams, use medical-grade honey. It will lead to rapid healing without contributing to antibiotic resistance.

4. Coughs and Sore Throats: Forget cough syrups that are filled with a massive list of chemicals. Instead, a spoonful of medical-grade honey a few times per day should be used to soothe your throat and reduce cough.

Examples of medical grade honey would be Manuka honey which is a very powerful anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory!

fake honey

Some Ways to Use Food-Grade Honey

In essence, food grade honey should be used for eating, not for medicinal purposes. Use it to sweeten drinks, drizzle over foods, or even bake with. It is important that you select quality food-grade honey, but it does not need to be medicinal grade.

Purchase Local, Raw Honey

But what is raw honey? And why is it so much better than honey that isn’t raw? Well, a problem with raw honey is that it means one thing: it isn’t heated past pasteurization (4). And if you want the full benefits of honey, you don’t want it to be pasteurized, for reasons we will get to in a bit. This is why buying local is so important: It is easier for you to find out if the honey was pasteurized or not.

Depending on where you live, access to locally produced, raw honey is pretty simple; you might be able to find it sold along the side of the road or at your local farmer’s market. Local grocers committed to supporting other local food vendors might even have it available on their shelves.

Why raw honey is healthier?

raw (aka unpasteurized) honey is filled with pollen, enzymes, vitamins, and more. These elements do not survive the pasteurization process, and that means that their benefits do not survive, either. While your number one concern might be decreasing the amount of refined sugar in your family’s diet, you also do not want to forgo the many health benefits that unprocessed honey offers.

Raw local honey can help with boosting your immune system against allergies and is a powerful anti-bacterial since it contains hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Hydrogen peroxide is proven to have powerful antioxidant and anti-bacterial qualities that inhibits the growth of bacteria. Some people use raw honey to treat minor burns and cuts with raw honey because it has such strong anti-bacterial properties (serious burns and cuts should be treated by a doctor and not raw honey!).

But what if local, raw honey isn’t available to you?

The first thing to do is research options at the local grocery store, ensuring that you are eliminating any options that are overly processed or contain additives. If you still have options left after doing this, those could be your best options as they are still better than using refined sugar (3). However, online retailers may give you access to higher-quality honeys that are healthier for your family.

How Much Honey Should We Consume Daily?

As always, you can have too much of a good thing. While honey is a great alternative to refined sugar, the average person eats so much sugar that simply replacing it with honey would still be unhealthy. Raw honey is a healthier option than refined cane sugar since it breaks down in the body into two types of sugar – fructose and glucose which are absorbed in the body in different rates. Raw honey has a lower glycemic index which makes it safer for diabetics, although this should also be monitored and consumed in moderation.

In addition to making the switch, you also need to reduce your family’s consumption. The amount of honey consumed per day should be around 10 teaspoons or less for an adult, which is equal to about 50ml (6). For more active individuals, a bit more could be consumed, and those who are less active should eat less.

Please note, children under the age of 12 months should never consume raw honey as it can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which can germinate in a baby’s immature digestive system and cause infant botulism. These spores are usually harmless to adults and children over 1 year old, because the microorganisms normally found in the intestine keep the bacteria from growing.

In Summary

  • Always purchase raw honey and strictly avoid pasteurized honey.
  • When possible, buy local.
  • Purchase both medical-grade and food-grade honey, but save the medical-grade for injuries and illnesses.
  • Use it to replace refined sugar, but still be careful to limit consumption.

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Works Cited





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