Beginning about two months ago, I began getting strange emails about the disappearance of pure honey. These messages were coming from consumers of honey, not beekeepers, and they mystified me. Here is an example of an email from last week:
Could you please tell me where I can get pure honey without sugar syrup? I mean, I want honey made from nectar only. I can’t find it anywhere.
My first thought was that rumors of sugar syrup getting mixed with extracted honey must have gone viral. Seriously, I couldn’t understand all the mail. I just answered these questions and moved on. Then, quite by accident, it all became clear.
An answer to the puzzle
Last week, my daughter paid a visit and brought a gift consisting of a ceramic honey jar, honey dipper, and a jar of eucalyptus honey. I happened to glance at the Nutrition Facts and saw it was one of the newly designed labels, proposed by the FDA but not yet mandatory.
About halfway down it reads:
Total Carbohydrates 17g
- Dietary Fiber 0g
- Total Sugars 17g
- Includes 17g Added Sugars
Bingo! Now I remembered. The FDA has this inane idea that somehow the sugars in honey are “added.”
Honey with added sugar
Added by whom? I wonder. The bees? The flowers? Garden fairies? I had completely forgotten about this issue, although I had read a lot of complaints about it last year. As far as I know, the new labeling regulations were supposed to go into effect in July of 2018, but the deadline has been extended to January 2020 for large corporations and to January 2021 for smaller ones with less than $10 million in annual sales.
Apparently, some companies decided to comply early and use the new labels. I can see why. The “best by” date on my jar of honey (another ridiculous concept) is October 9, 2019. If the original deadline for compliance hadn’t changed, companies using the old labels would have been out of compliance long before the “best by” date rolled around. That honey would need to be pulled from the shelves prematurely. So from the retailer’s perspective, it made sense to be proactive.
The disappearance of pure honey
But just as many beekeepers predicted, the public is completely flummoxed by this wording (as am I). The people who have written to me are just the tip of the iceberg. How many people are going to stop buying honey because they think it contains added sugars? People read food labels, and people believe what the labels say. If the government says honey contains added sugar, it must be true. Right?
Examining the label on my jar more closely, I see that under “Ingredients” it lists Eucalytus Honey. Nothing else. But in a way, that just makes it worse because people will begin to believe that added sugar is part of what we call “honey.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth because, by definition, honey is made from the nectar of flowers. Period.
Since adding anything to honey is considered adulteration, it would also be easy to conclude that honey with so-called “added sugars” is adulterated. As the email above shows, consumers may well believe that honey labeled this way contains sugar syrup. This is government regulation run amok.
Whatever happened to truth in labeling?
I spent a long time trying to figure out if the original label requirements were changed after the comment period ended earlier this year. But as far as I can tell, as of two days ago (December 11) the regulation stands and has not been amended in any way. It looks like you should get ready to explain this to your friends and customers.
Honey Bee Suite