Here’s what you need to know about “organic” honey…
Well, there isn’t, strictly speaking, a standard for USDA certified organic honey.
Listen to this GD Foodie-Phile segment—I talk about what “organic honey” really means. Then read on for more details.
For honey to be labeled and sold as organic honey in the US, according to the USDA, it must have been produced using the following standards:
- Colonies maintained in a certified program must not be any closer than a four mile radius from any areas where there is a risk of contamination from non-approved chemicals.
- Beehives can only be constructed of natural materials such as wood and metal. Only the outside surfaces of beehives may be painted, and only lead-free paint may be used.
- Plastic frames are not permitted.
- Plastic foundation may be used if it is coated with organic beeswax, and mounted in a wooden frame.
- Materials or chemicals that have not been approved for an organic program may not be used in or around the hives.
- In order for organic certification to be maintained, organic management techniques must be practiced on a continual basis.
- Synthetic, non-approved materials may not be used as bee smoker fuel.
- For hive products to be sold as organic, the colonies that produced the products must have been under continuous organic management and standards for no less than 270 days prior to the harvest of the products.
Organic labeling standards can be found at ams.usda.gov.
There are organizations that are USDA-approved to certify that products can be labeled “organic.” But since there are no standards, it’s possible that some bad actors could use the organic honey label without having the proper certifications and it’s difficult for us to know if this is happening. There are some scary scenarios that have occurred as outlined in this April article in OrganicLife, What’s Your Honey Hiding?
Ok, while we are at it, lets define “raw” honey.
Raw honey is typically understood to mean honey that is
- Nothing added
- Nothing removed
Ideally, buy your honey from a local beekeeper. You can usually find it at a farmer’s market or call your nearby beekeeping association and ask them for beekeepers who sell honey at retail. As an added advantage, local beekeepers are going to have honey with local pollen in it which is reputed to help asthma suffers. You’re also supporting a local business!