Global vs Local Honey Reply

is it honeyDid you know that there is a huge global trade in honey? Just look at the table below…

Top Five Natural Honey Producing Countries (in thousand metric tons)
Rank Country 2009 2010 2011
1  China 407,367 409,149 446,089
2  Turkey 82,003 81,115 94,245
3  Ukraine 74,100 70,900 70,300
4  United States 66,413 80,042 67,294
5  Russia 53,598 51,535 60,010
World 1,199,943 1,212,586 1,282,102
Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organization [104]

China is by far the world’s largest producer and exporter of honey. In most countries the bees are given time to reduce the moisture content of raw honey. This is a natural process in which the bees reduce the water content of honey to less than the threshold 20%, so that their winter food stores will not go mouldy.

Uncapping HoneyHoney bees naturally understand this critical threshold and seal their stored honey with a wax capping only when their honey is safely below this threshold level.

To extract naturally sealed honey, a beekeeper cuts off this wax capping (left) before spinning the ripened honey out of the frame(s) in a centrifuge. In a typical commercial operation this process is highly automated but essentially the same.

However, China is relatively unique in extracting unripened (& uncapped) honey, which has a high moisture content.

The moisture of the honey is typically reduced in vacuum chambers in China’s many honey-processing factories.  However, there is now global recognition of wholesale adulteration of Chinese honey both for export and domestic consumption. This is now causing adulterated Chinese honey to be trans-shipped via other countries to hide the country of origin.  A headline about “Fake Honey” in a Chinese newspaper proclaimed “60-70% of Chinese honey on the market is adulterated” and the July, 2013, report states that beetroot syrup and rice syrup are being sold in China as honey.

If, and when, Chinese consumers suffer from and protest the fraud, adulteration and food contamination, which have already been revealed in powdered milk, meat products and honey; then effective pressure may push the authorities to clean up the corruption and promote and enforce effective regulations regarding food safety and honesty in labelling.

Meanwhile, it’s “buyer beware” when purchasing cheap honey in the supermarket. Better to buy from your local beekeeper or, beekeeping association where none of these industrialised processing practices take place. The practices used by local beekeeping associations are similar to those used for generations by local beekeepers.

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