According to Larry Olmsted, author of Real Food, Fake Food, honey is among the most faked foods. Last year, the United States imported 275 million pounds of honey and produced less than 120 million pounds. A lot of this honey is ultra-filtered, a high-temperature, high-pressure process that filters out identifying pollen, to hide this fact: It is honey from China that has been transshipped, which means it’s sent to an intermediate country like Canada and relabeled as a product of that country to circumvent tariffs.
But why, in general, is Chinese honey bad? It is often diluted with high-fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, beet sugar and other sweeteners, and sometimes contains antibiotics and dangerous chemicals. According to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, the antibiotics may be a holdover from a Chinese bee disease from 2001 that they fought with antibiotics like chloramphenicol, which is a carcinogen.
The Food and Drug Administration tests only about 5 percent of imported honey. And domestically, the USDA has created a voluntary honey grading system that allows producers to label their own products with Grade A, Grade B or Grade C, with no inspection or certification.
Why isn’t there more oversight? According to Fort Meade beekeeper Jim Doan, testing is not a priority for the FDA because the honeys in question "are not contaminated, they’re adulterated."
He sees the large-production honey packers as part of the problem.
"Some have been indicted, but the fine is so negligible. It’s considered a harmless crime," he says. "You’ll get a food buyer for a big cereal company and they’ll say to the packer on the down-low, ‘We want the special blended product,’ because it’s cheaper. It’s such a small ingredient in the finished cereal that no one knows."
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