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Shark Idle Science

Laser Intended For Mars Used To Detect "Honey Laundering" 387

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-your-bees-and-clues dept.
A laser tool funded by the European Space Agency to measure carbon on Mars is now being used to help detect fake honey. By burning a few milligrams of honey the laser isotope ratio-meter can help determine its composition and origin. From the article: "According to a Food Safety News investigation, more than a third of honey consumed in the U.S. has been smuggled from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. To make matters worse, some honey brokers create counterfeit honey using a small amount of real honey, bulked up with sugar, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery (a type of unrefined sugar) and other additives—known as honey laundering. This honey is often mislabeled and sold on as legitimate, unadulterated honey in places such as Europe and the U.S."
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Laser Intended For Mars Used To Detect "Honey Laundering"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:18AM (#42932549)

    So... Taking some real honey and add HFCS is worse than having "illegal antibiotics" (whatever that means) and heavy metals ?

    FFS when will they stop these articles full of "allegedly" "may contains" in between scary words, and stick to facts instead...

    Seriously if we are going this route, it also "may" contain plutonium, or the cure to Cancer.

    Sensationalism is what rules, feeling and not information.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:22AM (#42932561)

    The farmers I buy from charge perhaps 15% more; the product tastes a fair bit better. There's my frickin' anecdote.

    I was surprised by the 1/3+ figure in TFS too. That's a huge amount of honey to be slipping under the FDA radar, way too high to not become a major scandal, you'd think.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:23AM (#42932565)

    I'm not 100% sure, but I believe in the U.S. the economics work out so that there's no incentive to fake the flower part and have your bees drink sugar water. Sort of the opposite, actually. Bees for crop pollination are enough in demand that some beekeepers actually make more money taking them around to pollinate crops than they do from selling the honey!

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:53AM (#42932715) Journal

    Honey is one of the few foods to have a shelf life [shelflifeadvice.com] that approaches the half-life of uranium. There's honey dug up out of ancient Egyptian tombs that is/was still considered edible.

    OTOH, the taste apparently degrades with time, which may explain GP's assertion.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Izuzan (2620111) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:03AM (#42932757)
    Something also to consider Honey you buy from the farmer wont be pasteurized. meaning all of the vitamins taste and other nutrients are still there. Pasteurization kills honey. it is no better than corn syrup after being pasteurized.
  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:20AM (#42932837)

    Like wine and some other food products, honey CAN taste different based on the flowers the bees feed from.

    Generally darker honey has a stronger flavor. Honey from white clover is very light and has a mild taste. The darkest honey that I have tasted was from buckwheat blossoms. Buckwheat honey is as dark as molasses, and the taste is fantastic. I keep a beehive in my backyard, and usually plant a patch of buckwheat just for the bees.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ridgecritter (934252) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:26AM (#42932855)

    Agreed. Our local hardware store sells honey from local producers. Variety varies depending on what's in bloom and it's minimally processed, which I think is why it tastes so much better than the stuff in major grocery stores. The price is lots higher and I buy less of it than I might if I were buying at Safeway, but I enjoy it much more and I'm glad to support the local beekeepers. It's nice to drive by the hives where the honey came from on my way home.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:41AM (#42932903)

    Much like the $100 audio cables, even as a person who really likes honey, i can't tell the difference. I certainly can tell between "honey flavored syrup" sold in the grocery store and actual honey, but for real honey it all tastes about the same to me. Same with syrup. I like to spring for actual maple syrup but beyond it just being real maple syrup the various brands don't taste any different.

    Dunno. Maybe my pallet just isn't refined. I can't tell the difference between an "organic" vegetable and the regular ones from the grocery store either.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:45AM (#42932917) Homepage Journal

    I have a beehive in my backyard. I always give them some sugar water during the winter. I don't know any other beekeepers that don't do the same. It helps lower the winter die-back, and helps the hive get a strong start in the spring.

    So does leaving enough honeycomb for the bees. Where I come from, the hive would have nine frames, of which two would remain unharvested. If you want to give them a strong start, keep a frame in the freezer for spring.

    Yes, I boycott apiaries that feed sugar water, except in abnormal circumstances that wasn't due to taking too much honey in the first place.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:17AM (#42933193)

    agreed. having no experience with beehives on my resume, I find this comment interesting.

    Well, I am not a pro or anything. It is just a hobby. I have never sold any honey, but I do give a lot away. Even one hive produces much more than one family needs.

    My mom had a few beehives when I was a kid, and everything I know about beekeeping, I learned from her. She gave the bees supplemental sugar during the winter, so I did the same. I just assumed that everyone did that.

    It is a fun hobby. I very rarely get stung. The last time was several years ago. My kids enjoy helping out with the honey harvesting. We put it in jars with a chunk of honeycomb and give it as Christmas presents. You can get started for about $200 in supplies. [amazon.com]

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ebonum (830686) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:27AM (#42933213)

    I live in China. It is the same here. You can buy the crap from Carrefour ( think Walmart, but run by the French ), or you can buy from the local growers. Once you get out of the cities, you can find beekeepers that setup stands next to the highways. Most of them have boxes and boxes of hives with them. They move from farm to farm in the area, helping to pollinate the local crops. The honey they have on hand tends to be what they were last pollinating. If you ever get the chance to try some, do. It's really good stuff. Plus, it is always good to directly support the local farmers ( And Yes. They will try to up the price if you look like a city dweller. Just get back in the car. Start the engine and the price will drop 50%. )

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by retchdog (1319261) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:30AM (#42933219) Journal

    The varieties of honey (determined by the predominant flora which the bees gather pollen from) have noticeable differences. Some are subtle; orange blossom honey does taste a little bit like oranges. Tupelo honey costs 2-3x as much and is considered the superior honey, but honestly I can't tell the difference between it and clover. However, I've gotta say any honey labeled as a specific variety is manyfold better than the stuff in the plastic bear. So what if it costs more? A jar of honey lasts me a year. I'll optimize somewhere else.

    Now buckwheat honey, if you have a chance to try it, is almost nothing like `normal' honey; you might hate it, but it's worth trying. It is extremely dark and has an odd almost savory/umami taste. It's a bit weird on its own, but if you mix it with an acid (I use apple cider vinegar) and deglaze a steak pan, you get an amazing sauce... it's hard to believe it's only two ingredients (plus the fond and drippings from the steak of course).

  • Re:Buying local (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turbidostato (878842) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:53AM (#42933293)

    "Those who favor the opposite may be willing to pay a premium - perhaps even a 100% premium - for locally grown/locally produced goods."

    And then (all other things being equal) what you are doing is promoting an unefficient productivity for your local economy instead of preferring the cheap products so making your local economy can focus on what it can do fine an on the bucket too.

    The "all other things being equal" is of importance here. Of course you can be cheaper if you use slaverish work instead of proper wages but that's not the point. Think global instead of local, but think that the human being in the other side of the globe diserves dignity as much as your neighborough.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Monday February 18, 2013 @04:01AM (#42933309)

    One benefit of local honey is help with allergies for local conditions. I have a friend with severe allergy problems and he raises bees for this very reason. I have no allergy problems but he claims that consuming the honey from local bees helps greatly. It's best if you get the honey with the honeycomb as well.

  • by ivi (126837) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:08AM (#42933531)

    One of Australias' "Big 2" SuperMarket chains (ie, Coles) places Chinese-sourced "Honey & Syrup" in the middle of the rectangle of shelf-space otherwise occupied by honeys.

    As "Honey" is listed first, in the product's name, I - for one - was once fooled into thinking that the product would -surely- have at least 50% honey in each plastic bottle of "Honey & Syrup," so I tracked down the Australian distributor & asked for details about the product.

    (I should have generalised from what we - long ago - discovered about so-called 95 gram cans of "designer tunas" ...which turned out to contain from about 40% tuna up to slightly over 70%, depending on each can's "designer flavor.")

    (The Australian importer's phone number was answered by an auto-parts company(!). Checking the phone number, it was then listed, in the phone catalog, as a car parts company.)

    Assuming that the company was perhaps a rural-based operation, happy to convert some extra storage space into profits, I focused on the product's make-up, since the label did not specify the prevalence of either of the two named ingredients.

    Verbally, the person at the cart parts company, who answered as importer & distributor of this product, told me that the product was 60% -syrup- & only 40% honey. As the label did not show these percentages, I couldn't help replying: "Today, maybe, but I'd almost expect the Chinese supplier to further reduce the percentage of honey it may mix in, in future, ie, to cut its cost.

"Someone's been mean to you! Tell me who it is, so I can punch him tastefully." -- Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse

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