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Shark Idle Science

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

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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  • Buy local honey (Score:5, Informative)

    by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:03AM (#42932485)
    Most places in the US have a small local honey industry. Support it.
  • All the more reason (Score:5, Informative)

    by eksith ( 2776419 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:07AM (#42932503) Homepage

    You should try to buy from your local Farmer's Market if there's one nearby, whenever possible. You will be supporting your local economy and you can be reasonably sure a local merchant isn't pumping poison into the product or the groundwater (or else someone will have noticed). Especially when it's their water too.

    I stocked up on some excellent honey and combs (these are delicious!) past Summer from our local market and they hold one at least twice a week near the town square. It's a good way to meet people in your area the old fasioned way too as opposed to FB, Twitter et al.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:31AM (#42932605) Homepage Journal

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

    "National chain" honey is likely either from the same region year after year and/or it's a blend that's controlled to ensure a consistent product from year to year.

    Heck, as a consumer, if I wasn't specifically looking for "pure" honey I would expect some added ingredients, including small amounts of flavoring and cheaper sweeteners, to allow the company to sell me something that "tasted like honey" at a lower price and with greater batch-to-batch and year-to-year consistency. Then again, I'm the kind of guy who usually buys name-brand relatively cheap fizzy drinks instead of small-label, all-natural-ingredients expensive ones. But when I do buy "carbonated grape juice" I expect it to be nothing but pure carbonated grape juice.

    The one thing I do demand as a food customer is an accurate label that lists all flavor-, texture-, and medically-significant ingredients (e.g. allergens, anything with nutritional value, etc.), and all non-trace ingredients.

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:36AM (#42932623) Journal
    But seriously, don't buy clear honey. Honey can be traced by the pollen, which has been removed in clear honey.
  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Informative)

    by Myopic ( 18616 ) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:56AM (#42932723)

    The shelf life of honey is measured in centuries. Freshness is a canard. There may be good reasons to buy local honey, but that isn't one of them.

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

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:59AM (#42932737)

    Answering my own question:
    "Oxytetracycline, an antibiotic, is widely used by keepers to get queen bees to lay more eggs."

    So there you go!

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

    by Izuzan ( 2620111 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:00AM (#42932747)
    no they just get it cheap from china and Argentina. Billy Bee honey in Canada is about 90% foreign honey that they buy dirt cheap. they are also getting what is called Honey Analog which is what this test is there to detect. gathering honey is FAR from an easy job. it is heavy hot and hard work for little pay out. (my parents are one of the bigger honey producers in Ontario) you dont make any money through the winter months. (other than what you can sell from the door) and you are going all balls to the wall during the summer. honey boxes on average weigh about 80lbs each, each yard my parents have has 20 hives, each with an average of 2-3 of these boxes coming off at any one time. then you have to exact it. to do 2 skids of boxes which is 12-16 boxes per skid is an entire days work. when they do sell their honey to packers (billy bee) they want to pay about half what the from the door price is. they make a not to bad living doing it. about 75k a year in a good year. but that is generally all at once when they sell to a packer. so that has to last them the entire year. i would not wish it on anybody. i would not get into the family business unless i had to.
  • by Izuzan ( 2620111 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:07AM (#42932779)
    They also don't have the food and safety laws we do in the US and Canada. much of the honey from china is from small farmers that are using old burlap sacks to squeeze the honey out of the comb. they all bring their honey to a central area and pour it into a big bin. in Canada at least if the govt tests your honey and finds a chemical that is more than the legal parts per million ALL of your honey is condemned. they confiscate it and you get no money that year. my parents have to have Samples from each yard they have to send to the govt for testing. if something is wrong they can take the honey from the problem yard.
  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:09AM (#42932791)

    Most honey farmers will take out so much honey of the hives that they have to feed the bees sugar water to survive the winter.

    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.

    This in turn leads to crappier honey next season.

    I have never heard this before. The bees eat the sugar, and it is all consumed by the time they start making new honey. I give them their last feeding in February, and they don't start making new honey till April. The sugar is not mixed with honey harvested for human consumption.

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

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:58AM (#42932959) Homepage Journal

    It's not just oxetetracycline [], I'm afraid.

    Unfortunately, the FDA only inspects a tiny fraction of what's out there.

    As for heavy metals, Chinese apiaries too often use lead soldered frames. Honey reacts with metals, unfortunately.

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

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:57AM (#42933141) Homepage

    I think he means this: [].

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

    by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:45AM (#42933265) Journal

    This article [] says differently.

    Specifically, a lot of the honey (75%+) in grocery stores doesn't have the expected amount of pollen that pure honey would have. This doesn't necessarily mean that it's adulterated, of course, but since pollen is completely harmless and does nothing to affect longevity of the product, maybe one should be a bit suspicious about why they're removing it (note: the filtration is a process which increases production cost), if not to cover up fraud.

    By contrast, every honey they sampled at farmers markets had the expected pollen. Again, this isn't an exhaustive study, but in contrast I see absolutely no support for your claim.

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

    by Barsteward ( 969998 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @04:57AM (#42933499)
    "I can't tell the difference between an "organic" vegetable and the regular ones from the grocery store either."

    there isn't much difference in taste, it just means it has been produced without chemicals so its more natural
  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:50AM (#42933629)

    Many years ago I looked at the ingredient specification on a bottle of kecap (Indonesian soy sauce) of a brand that's popular in the Netherlands. Soy should have been the main ingredient, but it wasn't. I don't recall if it was missing completely or if it was way down the list, but I do remember yeast extracts were the main ingredient. Not what I would call soy sauce, but I hadn't noticed a difference in taste. They only seem to have done that for a short while, they have returned to using soy.

    Modern food processing industries are very focused on producing a consistent and predictable product. Natural ingredients aren't that consistent, so they blend and manipulate to produce the required taste and other properties. I can imagine that if how the product is experienced by people becomes the main property the means by which that experience is accomplished becomes secondary. When you get to that point "kecap" doesn't need to be made of soy, as long as it tastes and behave like kecap, and "honey" doesn't need to be produced by bees as long as it tastes and behaves like honey. Another example is caramel colored bread. It looks healthier than white bread but it isn't. It's not necessarily bad food in all cases, but we are being lied to.

    This, by the way, is also why I'm allergic to the word 'experience' used for almost everything software related nowadays. That word makes it sound as if appearences are the main property of the product, not what it is and does but what it seems to be and do, and that to me is an indication that I'm being lied to. UX design, *shudder*.

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

    by egcagrac0 ( 1410377 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:43AM (#42933827)

    I HAVE to try coffee honey.

    That sounds interesting, but the coffee honey is likely to taste of coffee blossoms, not roasted coffee seeds. You may not get the flavor you're hoping for.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:4, Informative)

    by osvenskan ( 1446645 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @08:54AM (#42934263)

    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.

    Tupelo honey is more valuable to me because it's much less prone to crystallize (due to the sugars in it). Clover honey seems to crystallize if you do so much as look at it funny.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:4, Informative)

    by andydread ( 758754 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:26AM (#42934485)
  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:28AM (#42934499)

    Most honey farmers will take out so much honey of the hives that they have to feed the bees sugar water to survive the winter.

    I spoke with an bee keeper shortly after the story about the problems with feeding bees HFCS (it often contains small amounts of insecticide, which causes problems with bees navigation). His comment was that it was probably not a significant problem since most beekeepers only fed bees a small amount of sugar water in the late winter so that the bees were stronger when the first blossoms of spring happened. He fed his bees cane sugar in water in late February, early March. Based on what he said, the only reason that beekeepers in the U.S. feed their bees sugar water is so that they are stronger when the blooms of spring happen, not because they took too much honey out of the hive. Nature does not care if the hive can pollinate lots of flowers and start making large amounts of honey in the early spring, so nature does not care if it takes several weeks after the flowers start to bloom for the hive to be up to speed. Commercial beekeepers on the other hand want to get as much productivity out of the hive as they can. Which means that if they can get the hive up to mid season strength as soon as the flowers start to bloom, they can make more money. Beekeepers also tend to actually treat their hives as sort of pets (not individual bees, but the hive as a whole), feeling emotionally attached to the health of the hive. Beekeepers significantly improve the health of bee hives much like cat owners improve the lives of cats.

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

    by rockytopchip ( 1398125 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:00AM (#42934727)
    Place your bottle of crystallized honey in a warm water bath and it will be like it was when freshly bottled, without the crystallization.
  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:4, Informative)

    by CowTipperGore ( 1081903 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:18AM (#42934867)

    We keep about 20 hives of bees and I grow buckwheat on a portion of my garden each year specifically for the bees. That honey is darker and more flavorful than any I've ever encountered elsewhere.

    The local apiary group hosts a honey tasting event each year; the range of colors and flavors in the local area is amazing.

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

    by CowTipperGore ( 1081903 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:20AM (#42934893)

    Just be careful that you don't heat it too much. Warm it like good BBQ - slow and low. Also, you'll often end up with some foam on top when you are finished. This stuff is like marshmallow cream, expect it is pure honey. I can't explain just how good it is.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:4, Informative)

    by Izuzan ( 2620111 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:40AM (#42935061)
    its not used to make them lay more eggs, it is an Antibiotic to help get rid of what is called Foul Brood. it turns the larva in the cells into a stinky brown slime. the bee's cant clean this up by themselves. if it isn't caught in time the whole hive must be destroyed. which is generally done by blocking all the entrances to the hive pouring gasoline into it. and burning it. the heat kills the bacteria. and destroys any honey in the hive. as bee's are scavengers they will raid a dead hive to steal the honey. if you dont burn the diseased hive they will take the bacteria back to a healthy hive and infect it.
  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:5, Informative)

    by CowTipperGore ( 1081903 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:02AM (#42935289)

    Commercial tomato varieties are bred for tough red skin and blemish-free fruit. Flavor has no part in the equation. The commercial tomato industry was on the verge of collapse due to the increase in mechanization in farming but tomatoes were so fragile that there was no ability harvest them without destroying them. So the food scientists developed breeds that were firm, that were uniform in appearance, and that could be picked earlier. US producers pick their tomatoes while still completely green and subject them to 24 hours of ethylene gas to artificially ripen them. Many are refrigerated to further reduce spoilage but this also destroys nearly all of the flavor that may have accidentally remained.

    Recent research has indicated that the same genes that cause the uniform coloration selected for in commercial tomatoes also cause the fruit to convert the sun's energy into sugars. It isn't just that the round, red tomato-like cardboard balls at the store lost their flavor because it wasn't a priority in the breeding program - it appears that the flavor and appearance may be mutually exclusive.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:4, Informative)

    by CowTipperGore ( 1081903 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:33AM (#42935617)

    When my dad was a kid, his uncle kept bees in hollowed out logs and used absolutely no protective gear when he worked them. I helped Dad occasionally with his when I was younger but only recently got involved again. My oldest is 12 and will have his own bee suit this year.

    I don't ever see us getting by on nothing but farm income. We raise a small herd of cattle, raise chickens, grow a large garden, keep bees, and do countless other self-sufficient activities but I still have a full-time job. Last week I had some t-bone steaks from a young heifer we raised and butchered this past fall. She lived her life on pasture and was two-years old (ancient in the commercial beef market) when slaughtered. Those t-bones were, without a doubt, the most tender steaks I have ever had the pleasure to cook and eat. Yesterday's dinner was a pork roast from the pig we raised last year. Breakfast today was eggs from our chickens.

    I know, with reasonable certainty, what went into the production of a good portion of my food. I know the life it lived. I am able to select varieties that are more flavorful (in the case of vegetables) or more self-sufficient themselves (in the case of animals). I know the level of antibiotics used and why.

  • Re:Buy local honey (Score:4, Informative)

    by Specter ( 11099 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:43PM (#42936257) Journal

    +1 and wiki link to foul brood [].

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.