I’m not asking about your love life. I mean the sweetener in your cereal, tea, baked goods, cranberry and apple sauce, and so much more. For those who celebrate Jewish holidays, honey is especially on our minds – and palates – this week as part of the traditional way to (literally) sweeten the new year.
How do you know if your honey is pure or adulterated? Short of performing a chemical analysis, you are not likely to find out if there is something in your honey that shouldn’t be there. Lead, antibiotics banned in the U.S. and even other sweeteners used to “extend” the honey have been found in some honey imported from China. And the original source country is not always clear when honey is imported, as it may come through another one or more countries during shipping.
This summer, Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter Andrew Schneider published an article in Food Safety News on why you should care about – and not eat – honey from China at this time. The bottom line is that if you want to avoid the tainted honey, you should buy honey only from a source that you trust. Locally produced honey is a good bet – especially if you got to know the farmer who was selling the honey at your local farmers’ market.
Honey is not bad just because it is imported. I’ve bought and received wonderful honey imported from countries that respect food safety. (The European Union or EU has banned much of the problematic Chinese honey, whether it comes directly from China or is shipped through another country.) And just seeing an innocent-looking label with a US company name isn’t enough to tell you if the honey comes from a country that takes care to keep its honey supply safe. Some honey imported by a North American packer has a cute English language label with no information on its country of origin.
You can find more information about how to avoid tainted honey at True Source Honey. I’m not going to stop buying honey or avoid all imported honey any more than I give up fruits and vegetables when news stories come out about their dangers. But I am going to be more careful about what honey I buy and where it comes from. Maybe you’ll want to do the same. Hope you have a sweet – and food-safe new year.