As the processing of honey has become more complex, so has its labeling. The labels “raw”, “pure”, and “unfiltered” tell consumers how the honey was handled after harvest. This is important because chemical components (enzymes, vitamins, and antioxidants) are destroyed or removed during certain processing methods[ref]“Honey: Chemical composition, stability, and authenticity” Food Chemistry Volume 196, 1 April 2016, Pages 309-323[/ref][ref]“The Chemistry of Honey” Bee Culture Magazine (July 25, 2016)[/ref][ref]“Honey: A Reference Guide to Nature’s Sweetener” National Honey Board[/ref].

Below are three common practices in honey production that compromise it’s quality.

Unfiltered vs. Micro-filtered

There are several different sizes of filters that beekeepers can use to produce honey. When beekeepers use finer micro- or ultra-filters, pollen granules and other solids are completely blocked from entering the final product.

According to the FDA, any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen is not honey. Labeling products that contain no pollen as “Honey” may be illegal, but there is no enforcement. A 2011 study found that more than three-fourths of the honey found in grocery stores has no detectable pollen[ref]“Tests Show Most Store Honey Is Not Honey” Food Safety News (November 7, 2011)[/ref][ref]“Top Pollen Detective Finds Honey a Sticky Business” Food Safety New (November 7, 2011)[/ref].

A flashlight highlights the difference between a container of store-bought honey (left) and honey from Dunsmore Honey (right).

Dunsmore Honey passes unheated honey through a coarse strainer, allowing bits of pollen and comb through. Our honey is considered to be unfiltered, because it still contains pollen and wax[ref]Real Texas Honey[/ref].

Raw vs. Heated

Heating and filtering honey go hand in hand. Some producers use immersion heaters, storage tank heaters, or extractor heaters to heat honey to temperatures that melt honey crystals and lower its viscosity. Heated honey is easier to pass through filters and bottling machines.

A typical honey processing machine used to filter, mix, and store honey in industrial-scale honey production. Honey is heated during each of these steps (including storage).
A honey bottling machine used in industrial-scale honey production. Honey is heated again during bottling.

The Texas non-profit organization Real Texas Honey defines raw honey as honey that has not been heated to temperatures above 120℉, but there is much debate about the temperature at which honey loses its beneficial properties and is no longer considered raw. Honey has digestive enzymes that help break down food in the digestive tract[ref]“12 Foods That Contain Natural Digestive Enzymes” Healthline[/ref]. Higher temperatures destroy these enzymes, but the exact temperature at which an enzyme is destroyed can vary with each enzyme and other factors[ref]Enzyme kinetics Segel, I,H. (1975)[/ref][ref]“The Denaturation and Degradation of stable enzymes at high temperatures” Biochem. J. (1996) 317, 1–11[/ref][ref]Enzyme Nutrition Dr. Edward Howell (1985)[/ref]. Some believe that cooking food at temperatures above 104℉ or 110℉ destroys digestive enzymes[ref]“At what temperature does honey have to be heated too, too destroy the health benefits for humans?” Bee Health[/ref][ref]The Body Systems Approach to Natural Healing Tree of Light Institute[/ref]. Raw food diet advocates believe 118℉ is the maximum temperature that (wet) food can be heated to be considered raw[ref]“Raw food diet” ScienceDaily[/ref]. Ultimately, honey is more than just digestive enzymes and contains several other chemical components that can change when heated[ref]“What is the difference between pure honey and raw honey?” Healthy with Honey[/ref]. There is no U.S. federal definition of raw honey[ref]“Frequently Asked Questions” National Honey Board[/ref].

At Dunsmore Honey, we consider our honey raw because we never heat our honey.

Pure vs. Adulterated

Honey producers can add inexpensive sweeteners, like corn syrup, rice syrup, and sugar syrup to honey. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a guidance document advising honey companies on the “Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products” and the State of Texas has regulations on the “Labeling and Sale of Honey”[ref]Guidance for Industry: Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products US Food and Drug Administration[/ref][ref]Texas Statutes, Agriculture Code, Title 6, Subtitle A, Chapter 131, Subchapter E[/ref]. Unfortunately, honey producers continue to bottle adulterated honey[ref]“Detecting Honey Adulteration” Bee Culture Magazine (April 20, 2017)[/ref][ref]“Tests Show Most Store Honey Is Not Honey” Food Safety News (November 7, 2011)[/ref][ref]“Rotten” (2018) Season 1 Episode 1 – “Lawyers, Guns, and Honey”[/ref].

Corn syrup is used as a honey additive. The ingredient label is not always this accurate.

At Dunsmore Honey, our honey is 100% pure because it contains absolutely no additives.

Recently poured jars of thick, raw, pure, unfiltered honey.

Conclusion

Choosing which honey to buy can be overwhelming – many different labels, many different companies, and many different kinds of honey. Dunsmore Honey produces pure honey from the Texas Hill Country, with pollen and all the other vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, etc. intact. We do not heat, micro-filter, or adulterate honey like large-scale honey producers do. Purchase our raw, pure, unfiltered honey here and enjoy the “good stuff.”