New Honey Nutrition Label Will Not Have Added Sugar On The Label

CATCH THE BUZZ    September 11, 2018

Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on an updated approach for including added sugar information on the Nutrition Facts labels of pure maple syrup and honey.

Advancing better nutrition is one of my top priorities and implementing the update to the iconic Nutrition Facts label — the first overhaul in 20 years — is a key part of that commitment.

We’re already seeing the new label on many products. This updated label is empowering consumers with accurate and science-based information to help them make more informed, healthier choices. As part of our updates to the Nutrition Facts label, we’ve leveraged the latest information we have on nutritional science with the intent to help reduce the burden of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Toward these goals, the final rule to update the Nutrition Facts label includes a listing of “added sugars.” The old label simply listed the total grams of sugar without distinguishing between sugars that are naturally occurring, such as in fruits and vegetables, and sugars that align with the definition of added sugars established by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines for what constitutes added sugars, which inform the development of federal nutrition policies, define added sugars as caloric sweeteners that include, not only sugar, but also honey and maple syrup as well as other sweeteners.

While added sugars can be part of a healthy dietary pattern, the science underlying the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans demonstrates that meeting nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits is difficult when added sugars contribute more than 10 percent of a person’s total daily calories. There’s strong and consistent evidence that healthy dietary patterns characterized, in part, by lower intakes of sweetened foods and beverages, are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

We’ve made it our goal to increase consumer awareness of the quantity of added sugars in food products consistent with recent dietary guideline recommendations. The updated Nutrition Facts Label is an important part of this effort. The new label also contains the new daily value for added sugars, so consumers can better understand how foods with added sugars can fit into a healthy dietary pattern.

While added sugars declared on the updated Nutrition Facts label include sweeteners added to processed foods, they also include foods that are “packaged as such” including a bag of table sugar, jar of honey or container of maple syrup. We recognized that this new labeling information on “packaged as such” products may inadvertently lead consumers to think their pure products, such as a jar of honey or maple syrup, may actually contain added table sugar or corn syrup because there are “added sugars” listed on the label.

That’s why in February 2018, we issued a draft guidance for industry open for public comment that would help clarify the added sugars declaration on the label of pure, single-ingredient “packaged as such” products like maple syrup and honey. This draft guidance was the FDA’s initial thinking about ways we can work to help ensure that the updated Nutrition Facts label is helpful to consumers. The guidance advised food manufacturers about our intent to allow the use of an obelisk symbol, “†,” immediately after the added sugars percent daily value information on containers of pure maple syrup or pure honey. This would direct consumers to language that provides information about what “added sugars” actually mean for these specific products.

As with any draft guidance, we carefully consider comments submitted to the public docket and feedback from stakeholder meetings and interactions to inform us in issuing our final guidance. In this case, the more than 3,000 comments we received on the draft guidance indicate that there are further opportunities to update our proposed approach. We’re grateful for this feedback. It has helped us identify a solution that we think will more adequately address concerns and provide needed clarity to consumers.

We’re currently drafting our final guidance, which we anticipate issuing by early next year, well in advance of the January 2020 compliance date for larger firms for the updated Nutrition Facts label. This guidance will provide a path forward for pure, single-ingredient “packaged as such” products that does not involve the standard “added sugars” declaration on the Nutrition Facts label. We are not considering changes to the required percent daily value for these products, including for products like pure honey and maple syrup. We believe that such a solution strikes the balance of addressing producer concerns that their products could be perceived as being economically adulterated while still informing consumers on how these products contribute to their daily added sugar intake.

Although we’re continuing to work on a revised approach, I believe that an updated approach will both clarify requirements to successfully implement the Nutrition Facts label and achieve the goal of empowering consumers to use the new label to make informed and healthy dietary choices. Through engaged dialogue and open public comment on our nutritional strategies, I’m committed to finding ways to advance our work in nutrition to improve the lives of all Americans by reducing the burden of preventable illness.

Catch The Buzz: New Honey Nutrition Label Will Not Have Added Sugar on the Label

Honey (The Controversy over Chinese Honey)

Note from LACBA Web Master, Eva Andrews: There's a lot of controversy over Chinese Honey. We post only information from reputable sources. The LACBA does not claim to know the facts. Our suggestion is to know your source of honey. A good way to do that is to purchase local honey from local beekeepers. See:
Article dated 2/16/16: "Chinese Honey Banned In Europe is Flooding US Grocery Shelves - Here's How To Know The Difference" from Magazine For Healthy Living. Article on LACBA: /home/2016/2/18/chinese-honey-banned-in-europe-is-flooding-us-grocery-shelve.html

On 2/25/16 the American Beekeeping Federation shared this article on their Facebook page:

Article dated 11/25/11: "Relax, Folks, It Really is Honey After All" from NPR. 

Relax Folks, It Really Is Honey After All

(Note from LACBA Web Master, Eva Andrews: "There's a lot of controversy over Chinese Honey. We post only information from reputable sources. The LACBA does not claim to know the facts. Our suggestion is to know your source of honey. A good way to do that is to purchase local honey from local beekeepers. Article dated 2/16/16: "Chinese Honey Banned In Europe is Flooding US Grocery Shelves - Here's How To Know The Difference" from Magazine For Healthy Living. On 2/25/16 the American Beekeeping Federation shared this article on their Facebook page: Article dated 11/25/11: "Relax, Folks, It Really is Honey After Allfrom NPR.) 

NPR    By Dan Charles     (dated material: November 25, 2011)

Maybe we're too inclined to believe the worst about supermarket food.

How else to explain the reaction to a recent report about honey on the web site Food Safety News? Food Safety News is published by a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in lawsuits against food manufacturers and processors.

The post, by journalist Andrew Schneider, claimed that most honey on supermarket shelves isn't really honey. As evidence, the site cited tests showing that there is no pollen in most of that honey. (Raw honey contains lots of pollen, which bees collect along with the nectar that they turn into honey.)

If there's no pollen, asserted the story, then the honey must have been "ultrapurified," a technique that can involve diluting honey with extra water, running it through extremely fine filters, and then removing the water.

The article implied that this was part of a deliberate attempt to prevent anyone from detecting illicit honey from China. (The United States blocks imports of Chinese honey because U.S. officials decided that it was being sold at artificially low prices, undercutting American honey producers.) Schneider also reminded his readers that Chinese honey has had a history of safety problems, including contamination with banned antibiotics and lead.

Got that? Food that doesn't deserve its name, processed beyond recognition, probably adulterated, maybe unsafe, of unknown origin. It sounded so right, plenty of people decided that it just had to be true.

Bloggers and online publications ran with the story. "Most honey isn't really honey," posted Grist, repeating much of Schneider's story. "Honey! It isn't real!" shoutedTriplePundit. CNN's food blog, Eatocracy, was slightly more measured: "Most honey sold in U.S. grocery stores not worthy of its name." Tom Philpott, food blogger forMother Jonespicked up the story as well.

Here at NPR, we found the post interesting, too. But then we decided to look into it a little more closely. We talked to honey companies, academic experts, and one of the world's top honey laboratories in Germany. The closer we looked, the more misleading the story in Food Safety News seemed.

First of all, we learned that missing pollen actually is not evidence of "ultrapurification." We visited one of the country's top-tier honey packers, Dutch Gold, in Lancaster, Pa. We saw raw honey getting pumped through layers of white filters. Before the honey hit the filters, a powdered sedimentary rock called diatomaceous earth was added.

This is a standard, widely used process. It removes all the pollen, along with dust, bees' wings, and, of course, the diatomaceous earth. But it is not ultrafiltration, which filters out much more and produces a sweet substance that is no longer, in fact, honey.

Why do packers filter honey? Removing microscopic particles keeps the honey from crystallizing quickly.

"Consumers don't tend to like crystallized honey," says Jill Clark, vice president for sales and marketing at Dutch Gold. "It's very funny. In Canada, there's a lot of creamed honey sold, and people are very accustomed to honey crystallizing. Same in Europe. But the U.S. consumer is very used to a liquid product, and as soon as they see those first granules of crystallization, we get the phone calls: 'Something's wrong with my honey!'"

There's an exception to this filtration process. Dutch Gold also packs organic honey from Brazil, and organic honey doesn't go through nearly as fine a filter. Clark says that this is because organic rules prohibit the use of diatomaceous earth in the filtering process.

Of course, the raw honey that Dutch Gold gets in 50-gallon drums does contain pollen. As part of a recent auditing process, the company sent samples of imported honey that it received from India and Vietnam to a laboratory in Germany. There, scientists analyzed the pollen in that raw honey, and came to the conclusion that it was, in fact, from flowers that grow in the countries that claimed to be producing that honey.

Bottom line: Supermarket honey doesn't have pollen, but you can still call it honey. Call it filtered honey. And the lack of pollen says nothing about where it may have come from.

Now, could there still be fraud going on, involving ultrafiltration and Chinese honey? Yes, but not in the way described by the Food Safety News article.

Some people suspect that Chinese exporters are ultrafiltering some of their honey and sending it to, say, India. There, it could be mixed into raw Indian honey and exported to the US. Pollen analysis would show that this honey was from India, although at least one expert, Vaughn Bryant at Texas A&M University, says that he's seeing imported honey with an unnaturally low concentration of pollen. This, he says, could be evidence of ultrafiltration. Or it could be the kind of filtration done in the U.S., which also removes pollen.

One more thing: It's worth remembering that Chinese honey is barred from the U.S. not because it's unsafe, but because U.S. officials decided it was too cheap. Chinese honey has had more than its share of safety problems. But there's also plenty of perfectly good Chinese honey for sale on the world market. The European Union is much more fussy about honey quality than the U.S., yet the EU imports lots of honey from China.

Webinar: What Is That Honey?

Thurs, September 10th, 2015 at 3:00-4:00PM PDT

More and more honey labeling is being scrutinized and this is a good thing. States are adopting standards which must be met in order to label varietal honeys. There is also a great interest among beekeepers to know what type of honey the bees have produced. I can say first hand, I thought I knew what type of honey I had but after having it tested by Dr. Vaughn Bryant, I was proved wrong. Join us for a discussion of how Dr. Bryant determines the nectar source, how you as beekeepers can use that information to better market to the customer, and be compliant with labeling standards

*After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining our webinar.

The Honey Lobby is Demanding That the Government Define Honey

The Atlantic     By Bourree Lam   October 2, 2014

What is honey?

The answer may seem obvious: It's the gooey substance that often sweetens a mug of hot tea. It's what Jews dip apple slices into to celebrate the new year. It's a remedy for coughs, an ingredient in some chapsticks, and a path to shinier hair (some believe).

But it turns out that what counts as honey—and what doesn't—is a bit of a sticky mess. Does honey have to contain some pollen? Is it still honey if it's cut with corn syrup? How many microns get through the filters used to process it?

The honey lobby—yes, there's a honey lobby, and it represents the nation's non-ultrafiltered honey producers—has long fought for a definition it likes. In 2011, the FDA denied a petition for a standard of identity for honey. Now, the lobby has turned to the USDA for help. The main thing they say they want is some clarity: The FDA allows anything that's “a thick, sweet, syrupy substance that bees make as food from the nectar of flowers and store in honeycombs” to be labeled honey.

Smuckers, for example, lists the sole ingredient of its honey product as "Grade A Honey," but what exactly does that mean? The USDA currently has a voluntary grading system based on moisture content, defects, flavor, and clarity—but this system is not enforced nor does it get to the heart of the issue: pollen content.

The honey lobby, to put it mildly, does not approve of honey sans pollen. They've called that syrup—the product so common on most grocery-store shelves—"food fraud," believing that true honey is a product of a particular place, unique to the flowers surrounding a given hive. But those who produce that common "filtered honey" say that it's what consumers want.

"Many of us beekeepers are outraged at the dumping of foreign honey. And honey that is cut with corn syrup."

To make matters more complicated, China currently leads the way in global honey exports, and Chinese honey has been accused of being cut with fructose syrup. This, too, is part of what the honey lobby wants to get at—that a sweetener that's the result of feeding corn syrup to bees (or adding sugar or syrup to honey directly) shouldn't be considered real honey.

To sort out this situation, the USDA has issued a call for comments to describe "how a Federal standard of identity for honey would be in the interest of consumers, the honey industry, and U.S. agriculture." Those comments are publicly available on, and so far 70 comments have been received from honey makers around the country.

The vast majority—more than 95 percent—of the comments filed support the need for the USDA to set a standard, but there's also concern that the regulations will be too strict, making honey production difficult for small beekeepers. T. Pollard writes: "This additional regulatory efforts [sic] would only benefit the big honey operations, as those proprietors are the ones pushing for additional regulations by adding undue expense on the smaller honey operations."

As if all that weren't trouble enough for the nation's honey producers, there's also been the pesky trouble of "honey laundering," which refers to imported honey arriving with fake paperwork or smuggled in avoiding duties. As one response to the USDA's call bemoaned: "Many of us beekeepers, are outraged at the dumping of foreign honey. And honey that is cut with corn syrup." Last year, U.S. Customs had one of the biggest honey busts ever. “Project Honeygate” caught two U.S. honey plants attempting to skirt $180 million in anti-dumping duties. Charles Schumer called it a "buzzkill" for honey smugglers and called for a zero-tolerance policy for honey laundering.

Read at:

Honey Labeling

National Honey Board 

One of the most important decisions that a food marketer has to make is what to put on the label of a food product. It needs to appeal to the consumer and stand out from other food packages on the shelf. There are also legal considerations. And let’s face it, when it comes to labeling a honey jar, there’s limited space. 

Basic Labeling Requirements


The “Common” Name of the Product

The word “honey” must be visible on the label. The name of a plant or blossom may be used if it is the primary floral source for the honey. Honey must be labeled with its common or usual name on the front of your package. (i.e. “Honey” or “Clover Honey”)

Net Weight

The net weight of your product (excluding packaging), both in pounds/ounces and in metric weight (g) must be included in the lower third of your front label panel in easy-to-read type. (i.e. Net Wt. 16 oz. (454 g)) When determining net weight, use the government conversion factor of 1 ounce (oz) = 28.3495 grams or 1 pound (lb.) = 453.592 grams. Round after making the calculation – not before. Use no more than three digits after the decimal point on the package. One may round down the final weight to avoid overstating the contents. When rounding, use typical mathematical rounding rules.


Single ingredient products (such as honey) do not have to name that single ingredient when already used in the common or usual name on the front panel. However, if there are ingredients other than honey, you must list them in an ingredient statement. Some exceptions are spices, flavorings and incidental additives (additives which have no functional role and with minimal presence in the finished product) which have special rules.

The type size for ingredient listings must be no less than 1/16th inch as measured by the small letter “o” or by the large letter “O” if all caps are used in the declaration. There are exemptions that allow smaller type sizes for small packages.

Contact Information

The label must let consumers know who put the product on the market and how to contact that person. The name and the address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor of a packaged food product are required to appear on the label of the packaged food. This information, sometimes referred to as the “signature line,” must appear on the front label panel or the information panel. If space permits, include full address and telephone number. The information must be in a type size that is at least 1/16th inch tall.

FDA Appeals for Input on Honey Labeling- Deadline for Comments June 9, 2014

Deadline for comment: June 9, 2014 

FDA Guidance for Industry: Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products

Please pay attention to this serious issue that can have a direct impact on the honey industry.  It is extremely important that your organization submit comments and distribute this communication to your membership so they can also submit comments and ensure the honey industry maintains an active role in rule-making events.

Please feel free to contact with questions regarding the submission of comments.

 The full text can be found here:

To ensure your comments are considered by the FDA before the final draft is published, submit either electronic or written comments on the draft guidance by June 9, 2014.
Submit electronic comments on the draft guidance to: 
Submit written comments to: 

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305) 
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

The Truth Behind The Honey Labels: Fox 17 Investigation

 Fox 17 News   By Jennifer Dowling    2/25/14

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (February 25, 2014) — “I just take, probably a little spoonful like this,” said Ying Woellhaf of Whitehall, as she stirred her tea.

Ying and husband Raymond reach for their honey jar when they want something sweet. “We try to use honey as much as possible versus refined sugar,” said Ying.

But, often the labels on that honey you’re buying may not be telling you the whole story. “This one actually says imitation honey,” said Ying, looking over a generic looking honey bear bottle at the store.

A honey bottling company headquartered in Onsted, Mich., was recently fined by the federal government for selling transshipped, mislabeled Chinese honey during a federal investigation that was called “Operation Honeygate.” Groeb Farms, now called Natural American Foods, paid a $2 million fine.

The company said the executives responsible were no longer with the company.

However, many local West Michigan beekeepers say the case points to a larger problem. Research at Texas A&M University shows that most honey labels aren’t telling the truth, and 75% of the honey in the U.S. is not what it says it is on the label. And this could apply to as much as 90% of the nation’s honey, according to lead federal honey investigator.

That’s where Dr. Vaughn Bryant comes into the picture.

He grew up in Holland, Mich., and now he works as an anthropology professor at Texas A&M. He’s also known as the “honey detective.”

Dr. Bryant says pollen is so unique in all the different plants worldwide, it can be used as a fingerprint. In his lab, he can uncover a honey’s unique “pollen print,” which reveals where it’s from.

Bryant keeps an enormous library of pollen in the lab to compare with others and unravel the mystery of a honey’s source. “We have 20,000 different types,” he said.

“When we look at a honey sample and we find certain kinds of plants, like say palm trees, we know we’re dealing in the tropics,” said Bryant.

FOX 17 wanted to know where some of the honey that sits on your West Michigan grocery store shelves comes from, because sometimes the labels just aren’t that clear, according to Bryant. So, we took some samples and and sent them to Texas A&M University. Our five samples included a bottle from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms, Honey Tree’s Michigan Great Lakes Raw Honey, Organic Rainforest honey, plus a Meijer brand and a Spartan brand.

“Most of them were not what they claimed to be,” said Bryant.

First, he looked at the honey bottled from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms. They were previously fined for mislabeling Chinese honey. The label on this particular bottle said “Pure Honey Clover.” Although Dr. Bryant said the sample wasn’t from China, he said there was still a problem with the label. “It turned out not to be clover honey.”

There was “not enough clover pollen to warrant the honey being called a unifloral clover honey,” his report said. The other flower pollens found in the honey included “soybeans, chestnut, mesquite, and eucalyptus.”

“A little bit of clover pollen in here,” said Vaughn. “But it would not qualify as clover pollen. So here’s the case where it’s sold as pure clover honey, but it’s really not.”

Onto jar number two, a jar labeled Great Lakes Raw Michigan Honey. This honey appeared much more true to form according to Dr. Bryant’s analysis. He said there was “sumac” pollen in this sample, which grows commonly in the state. “It could well be from Michigan,” said Bryant. However, a few other suspicious pollens were discovered, too, which could indicate there was other honey mixed in from southern regions, or it could simply mean that the pollen accidentally got in there some other way. Bryant’s report showed pollen from citrus:  lemon, orange, sweetgum, mesquite, eucalyptus and magnolia.

“Those could have been contamination from some other source,” said Bryant. “Or, they could have been part of a mixture. It’s hard to tell.”

Chris Olney, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honey Tree said that the pollen from southern regions likely came from hives that were used in Florida, then brought to Michigan.  He said 50% of the hives are transported by beekeepers to southern regions like Florida to pollinate citrus crops, then they are brought back to Michigan to pollinate crops here in the summer.

Now on to sample 3, which was labeled Organic Rainforest honey. “We don’t know what it is,” said Bryant.

The label had the abbreviation “BR” on the back, which stands for Brazil. However, Bryant couldn’t prove it came from rainforest flowers. It came back from testing as a question mark, because someone had strained all the pollen out. “We have no idea whether it’s organic,” said Bryant. “We have no idea whether it’s from the rainforest or anything else.”

Sample 4, the Meijer Pure Clover honey, had stamps for USA, Canada, and Argentina on the label, but for Bryant, it remains a question mark because, according to the test, “all of the pollen has been removed.”

Sample 5, the Spartan premium golden honey had the markings of “AR” and “CA” stamped on the back. AR stands for Argentina according to country code listings, and CA stands for Canada. However, Bryant couldn’t prove where this sample was from either country. “One certainly could not prove that the contents of this honey is what is claimed on the label.”

We can’t say for sure what’s happening with our samples.

Bryant points out in past cases of illegal honey shipping, unscrupulous honey dealers have filtered out the pollen on purpose so illegally shipped honey can come into the country untraceable to its source.

“The United States does not have any affecting labeling laws,” said Bryant.

Some individual states have made their own stricter labeling laws, but the Michigan Department of Agriculture says, “Michigan does not have specific labeling requirements for where honey comes from.”

The honey mystery can also involve other foods that use honey, such as cereal. We tried to find out if Battle Creek-based Kellogg’s uses foreign or domestic sourced honey, but they wouldn’t reveal any information. They only said, “Details of our supply chain are confidential.”

“What we really need to do is get our federal government to start policing this whole thing,” said Bryant.

Meanwhile, Ying Woellhaf feels the best option for now is to buy from a local beekeeper, an actual person that you can call on the phone and perhaps even visit their hives. “This one is actually right from Ludington,” Ying said of her favorite brand. “It’s always smart to know what you’re feeding yourself and your kids.”

A trade bill in the U.S. Senate, 662, would help the government better police honey coming into the country, but it is still in the finance committee, .

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow sits on that committee. FOX 17 put a call into her office to see if she is supporting the legislation. No official word back as of newstime Tuesday.

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