National Honey Board: Honey is Made from Nectar, Not Pollen

By Bruce Boynton (Food Safety News) 4/23/12

Opinion

In the last several months various stories have resulted in misunderstanding and confusion about honey and honey filtration, leading some readers to believe that any honey without pollen is not real honey.

This is not true. Honey without pollen is still honey nutritionally and in flavor, and that is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture identifies it as such.  This misunderstanding has also led to several class action lawsuits regarding purchases of honey without pollen.

The truth is that honey is made by honey bees from nectar of flowers and plants, not pollen.  Pollen grains may end up in the exposed honey in the hive through any number of incidental or accidental ways, but it is not used by honey bees to make honey. 

Consumers have varying opinions about their choice of honey type, flavor and origin.  There are many different kinds of honey available in the U.S. market, such as honey in the comb, liquid honey that is considered "raw", creamed honey, as well as organic honey.   The majority of honey sold at retail in the U.S. every year, and preferred by most consumers, is the clear, golden liquid honey that has been strained or filtered to remove undesirable particles that make honey cloudy.  All honey crystallizes eventually; suspended particles (including pollen) and fine air bubbles in honey contribute to faster crystallization.  Filtering pollen and other particles out helps delay crystallization, allowing the honey to remain liquid for a much longer period than honey that has not been fil tered.

According to the United States Standards, honey can be filtered to remove fine particles, pollen grains, air bubbles and other materials found suspended in the honey1.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gives higher grades for honey that has good clarity.  Importantly, honey that has been filtered to meet USDA's grading standards may not have pollen, but it is still honey.

News stories have reported on illegal activities such as circumvention of tariffs on imported honey, and there are claims that some dishonest foreign suppliers may be "ultrafiltering" their honey to clean it up or remove the small amounts of pollen grains, often used as a marker to identify the country of origin. Ultrafiltering is not the same as filtering honey. Somewhere during the telling and retelling of these news stories, the term "ultrafiltered" became misused and confused with more traditional filtration methods used in the U.S. honey industry to produce clear, golden honey.
Read more: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/04/national-honey-board-honey-is-made-from-nectar-not-pollen/ 

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(The above brought to you by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)