Honey is one of nature's most wonderful creations. Packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, vitamins and minerals, the benefit for one's health are profound. Yet, since commercial beekeeper has made its appearance, it has become increasingly difficult to trust the quality of the honey found on the market.
If you can, it is always best to buy your honey directly from a local beekeeper. Buying directly from the source is the only way to know for sure how your honey has been processed, if at all. Ideally, you want to buy honey which has not been heated (unpasteurized) and which comes straight from the hive. The best alternative to buying honey from a beekeeper, is to buy it from a farmer's market. You're not as close to the source but your purchase remains local as you are less likely to come across honey from large commercial beekeeping companies.
However, we understand that it might not be feasible for everyone to purchase their honey locally, and therefore, we want to give you 3 easy tips about how to choose the best alternative when buying honey at a supermarket:
Don't fall for the cute teddy-bear
All honey which has not been heated up (unpasteurized) will eventually crystallize. Therefore, buying set honey (which looks creamy/hard) is an indication that it may potentially still contain the beneficial properties found in honey. Because of this crystallization process, these honeys are usually sold in a jar. Therefore, you should avoid liquid honey sold in squeezy bottles. These honeys have almost certainly been heated up above 40C in order to remain liquid in their container. And you know what this means - when heated above 40C, honey loses all of its beneficial enzymes etc. and the only thing that remains is the glucose and fructose (i.e. sugar). In conclusion, choose the creamy/hard honey sold in a jar (and not the cute teddy-bear).
Avoid EU & Non-EU honey
Local beekeepers are usually not able to provide enough honey for the liking of large multinational corporations who sell honey in stores. Therefore, these corporations need to purchase honey from many different suppliers and mix them together. This is what happened to the honey labelled as 'from EU & Non-EU origin'. Supermarket honey is not labelled with a country of origin because it does not have a country of origin. What you end up with is a jar of honey from dubious quality from god knows where. And this is a shame, because one of the great benefits from raw honey is that it contains pollen from the area where it is collected, and when eaten, the honey can help your immune system to fight off allergies etc. But this only works if you eat the honey collected from your area (the country works too in the case of Belgium). Another unfortunate aspect of buying honey abroad, especially from outside of the EU is that it may not be sourced ethically.
Only Honey and nothing else
Related to the point outlined above, it is not uncommon for large corporations to dilute the 'honey' they sell with water or syrup. Therefore, make sure to check the ingredient list before buying to ensure that honey is the only ingredient present on the list.
The issue with supermarket honey is actually much larger. If consumers were able to buy relatively good quality honey by following the tips above, the situation wouldn't be as bad. Sadly, there are many more aspects of honey which are an issue when it comes to supermarket honey. Traces of antibiotics and harmful chemicals, the removal of pollen contained in the honey or the standardization of colour and taste, to name a few, all play a role in the problem which makes the honey bought in a supermarket no better than sugar syrup. And this article does not even touch on the problem of bee welfare in the context of commercial beekeeping.
In conclusion: support your local beekeepers if you can :)