In a podcast of the BBC Radio 4’s Food Program, Sheila Dillon talks to people in the honey industry about how honey is processed, tested, adulteration of honey with inverted sugar, laundering of honey by removing pollen used to identify its geographical origin, and on the worrying ruling by the EU about traces of GM pollen found in a batch of Bavarian honey. After listening to the podcast I also read an article about honey adulteration in the US, the links to both of which are at the end of this blog.
Indian and Chinese honey is not allowed to be imported in the EU following investigations that found some of the honey was contaminated with heavy metals or antibiotics not approved for use in humans and that some of the products labelled as honey were in fact inverted sugar syrup. Also, there was concern of cheap subsidised Chinese honey flooding the European market. However, unscrupulous honey traders found a way to circumvent this ban by ultrafiltrating the honey thereby removing all trace of where it is from and laundering it through other countries (transhipping).
So what legitimate reason would you have to ultra filtrate honey? Most people would say there are none, but there is one reason that could be on the horizon. Last year a group of Bavarian farmers found their honey to be contaminated by GM pollen from a nearby field of Monsanto maize. The ruling of the EU court was that if GM pollen was found in the honey then it cannot be sold in the EU.
This could be a growing concern as the UK imports 90% of its honey and Germany is the biggest importer in the EU. The honey regularly comes from countries where GM crops are grown. Banning this honey could lead to shortages, but removing the pollen by ultra filtration makes identification of geographical origin impossible opening the way for adulterated honey.