Illegal, contaminated Chinese honey is being stripped and sold in the US
this vast and wide-spread problem with honey. Independent testing has shown that most of the honey which is sold at the grocery stores has been ultra-filtered to remove all traces of pollen. And legally, honey with all traces of pollen removed is not technically honey.
Who cares? You may not be particularly upset over the news that there is less microscopic pollen in your plastic bear-shaped squeeze bottle than you thought. You may (like me) not have realized until now that pollen was supposed to be - nay, legally required to be - in honey in the first place.
Here's why it matters: ultra-filtering honey is an expensive and time-consuming process. No company would do it without a pretty good reason. Particularly for something as relatively inexpensive as honey.
But pollen is not just an interesting nutritional additive. It is also a sort of biological tracking device. By examining the pollen in a sample of honey, a botanist will be able to tell you exactly what part of the world that honey is from. (To within a few square miles, in some cases.)
So removing all of the pollen from the honey is the equivalent of scraping the VIN off a car. It's like wiping the fingerprints off a knife handle. Or filing the serial number off a gun. There is literally no reason to go to all the trouble unless you're trying to cover up a crime.
And in this case, the crime is almost certainly the use of cheap, illegal Chinese honey.
China has been dumping tons of honey on the international market for years. It is as cheap as it is illegal. Chinese honey contains heavy metals like arsenic (from pollution), and antibiotics (which are used to keep their poor struggling bees alive long enough to make honey). This pollen-stripped honey has probably also been adulterated with sweeteners and flavoring, to make it seem sweeter and better-tasting than it would be otherwise.
According to the list of violators posted by Food Safety News, there is basically no honey for sale at the store. I spotted three brands that I have unwittingly bought in the past.
Of all the honey the investigators tested, all of that sold at small local farmer's markets was real. And only one major chain offers real honey with the pollen included: Trader Joes.
If you have never tried real raw local honey, trust me: you are in for a treat!