Get the latest buzz on honey scams: Internet Scambusters #667
The taste of honey won't be sweet if it turns out you bought a scam product.
Even if you buy the genuine product from your local supermarket, it may not be as nutritious as you thought it was.
We explain the ins and out of honey scams and deceptive labeling in this week's issue.
Now, here we go...
The Not-So-Sweet Truth About Honey Scams
To many people, honey is a superfood with all manner of health-giving properties.
But to scammers, it's a golden opportunity (literally!) to make money by selling fake products at inflated prices.
Not only that. Even legitimate products may not be all they seem, especially if you don't read the label carefully.
Let's take a look at that issue first.
Research from a couple of years back revealed that three quarters of honey sold at supermarkets and grocery stores has gone through a process called ultra-filtration.
The aim is to filter out impurities but, in the process, this type of filtration also removes pollen, which some people believe is a key ingredient of honey because of its antioxidant properties.
Sometimes, food experts believe the pollen is also being removed so the true sources of the honey cannot be identified.
Other important beneficial elements may also be removed during filtration.
Oftentimes, labels do not make clear that the honey has been filtered.
This is important because, as we reported in an earlier issue about food scams, Seafood Fraud: What’s Really On Your Dish?, cheap honey is being imported from China and then relabeled, rerouted via India or otherwise disguised in order to get around import restrictions.
Up to one third of the honey on sale in the U.S. may be from China, some of which is adulterated and often on sale at cut prices.
Indeed, some Chinese imports may be hazardous to your health, containing banned chemicals and antibiotics.
Other scams originating in China include the use of sugar water, corn syrup or other sweeteners, which are mixed in with real honey to "bulk out" the product.
One of the most sought after and costly types of honey is Manuka, which comes almost exclusively from the pollen and nectar of New Zealand's Manuka trees.
It is said to have powerful anti-bacterial properties.
According to press reports, the islands' Manuka industry produces around 3,000 tons of honey per year, yet annual sales are said to be around 9,000 tons!
That means that at least two-thirds of the Manuka honey on our shelves today is fake.
A one-pound jar of the genuine stuff sells for around $50 or more and fake products are not necessarily discounted -- which means victims are paying quite a bit of money to be ripped off.
What to Do
The continuing flow of fake or impure honey from abroad demonstrates that existing government controls and restrictions are limited in their effectiveness.
And the limited disclosure of widespread filtering means consumers are not always getting what they think they're getting.
So it's up to individuals to do whatever they can to limit the risk of being caught out by a scam or deception.
Here are 7 things you should know or do:
1. Buy locally-produced honey if you can. Check your phonebook for honey producers or beekeepers, or use this state-by-state guide from the industry's magazine, Bee Culture.
2. Read labels carefully. Beware of any products labeled as coming from China or India.
The label also likely won't tell you if the honey has been filtered or strained.
It may even use words like "pure" or "organic" but if it doesn't say "unfiltered," assume it has been filtered.
Even then, read labels with a skeptical eye. There may be no way of knowing if it's been swapped or if it's just plain telling lies.
3. Recently, a certification program has been introduced to vouch for the source of honey.
It's a voluntary program, operated by a private company called True Source Honey but still may be worth checking out.
4. You're also more likely to find unfiltered, quality honey at farmers' markets, whole food stores, and food co-ops.
5. The ingredients label should only name "honey." If it lists syrups or additives of any sort, then it's not pure honey.
6. If you're buying Manuka, it has a distinctively different taste -- so if yours doesn't it's probably not the real thing.
Note also that Manuka uses a grading system according to its antibacterial properties, with 2 UMF being the lowest and 20 UMF the best.
Sadly, you have no way of knowing if the grading is accurate (without getting it tested in a lab) -- so buy from a reputable source that you trust.
Buying from online auction sites may be particularly risky. eBay has a Manuka scam page that's worth checking.
7. Finally, of course, use the tried and tested rule about bargain prices. If a jar of honey is offered at way below what it should be, then it may well not be the real thing.
Alert of the Week
Are you planning to upgrade to Windows 10, launched in July/August?
If so, watch out. Microsoft opted for an unusual way of upgrading this time, by notifying users via their PC that their upgrade was ready to install.
Scammers have been mimicking these notifications via emails but if you click on a false notification, your PC will be encrypted with ransomware that you'll have to pay to unlock.
Don't click on links in these emails. Either upgrade directly via Microsoft's website or wait for your PC to notify you that it's ready. Microsoft is not using emails to upgrade.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!