The Great Global Honey Scandal
We have to protect the world’s sources of real, natural regional honeys before it’s too late.
What food could be more natural and wholesome than honey? After all, it’s been a precious source of both nourishment and healing properties for human beings since the dawn of time. Supermarket shelves have never been fuller of different honeys, all tempting us.
But there’s a shocking reality behind many of those honeys that everyone who cares about the provenance of their food should know.
It’s easy to imagine that all those honeys came from hives in pleasant rural areas, tended by expert beekeepers who work long, hard hours to care for their bees using traditional country skills.
In most cases that is a complete illusion. Almost unnoticed by the general public, honey production has been transformed into a huge global industry driven not by quaint tradition, but by massive profits.
The fact is this: most of the honey now sold across the world isn’t made in hives – it’s made by scientists in giant food factories.
The aim of these factories is to standardise honey. Standard colour, standard viscosity, standard smell. This is achieved by blending honeys from many sources and then cooking them (pasteurising) to stop them crystallising the way they do naturally, and ultra-filtering them to force out natural ingredients like minerals, enzymes and pollen traces. Then, worse still, honeys are often adulterated with cheap and nasty glucose syrups to further increase corporate profits.
As for the famous medicinal benefits of pure unpasteurised (raw) honey – its anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties – you can forget those. Industrially processed honeys retain none of them.
Even the bees themselves are mistreated. Throw away the idea of them buzzing happily around flowers. Industrial bees are mistreated with artificial feeding regimes (depriving of them of the honey they normally feed on), drug and pesticide treatments and even genetic manipulation. We’ve long felt outraged about the fate of factory chickens. It’s time to spare a thought for factory bees!
As honey expert Sarah Wyndham Lewis said recently, a honey should be a postcard to its place of origin. A region’s unique combination of climate, soil, flora and beekeeping traditions are what gives every proper honey a unique character that’s as individual as a fingerprint.
And that’s the real threat here. The globalised, industrialised processes that produce bland, characterless, homogenised ‘honey-type’ sweeteners are putting the very existence of traditional producers of authentically local honeys at risk.
Right now, all around the world in often small remote communities are bee farmers committed to keeping the joy of real, natural honey alive. Once we really understand the threat they face, we should seek out their precious products and protect their provenance for future generations to appreciate.
For a fascinating insight into the scandal of global honey, take a look at this video from the well-known honey sommelier Sarah Wyndham Lewis: