Honey is natural food known for its medicinal values and unique flavor. However, these properties of honey can be best enjoyed only if it is raw honey that is not subject to heat. Heating destroys the components responsible for these properties. Simple observation of honey will not give an idea of whether the honey is processed or raw. However, you can get quality raw honey if you can read and understand the labels of honey. Reading the labels of honey not only give an indication of its quality but also gives information about its nutritive value. But, there are no strict honey labeling standards. Here are few honey labeling standards that are generally followed by honey manufacturers. Understanding these labels will help you identify right kind of honey for you.
What is the information given by labels of honey?
Following are the common labels you will come across while buying Honey. These labels may change from country to country based on regulations and guidelines.
Name of the item : It indicates the name of the honey and its source of extraction. If it is a monofloral honey variety then it also gives the common name of the floral source. For example, honey derived from manuka tree will be labeled as manuka honey.
Weight of the product : The amount of honey included in the container will be given in either ounces/pounds and also in grams. Weight is given generally at the lower third portion of the label.
Ingredients: Generally raw honey will not have any other ingredients added to it and hence, the ingredients portion is simply stated as raw honey. If it includes flavorings, spices and additives then they will be mentioned on the label. Generally, additives such as Monosodium glutamate are added as a preservative. Many manufacturers label as free of MSG. However, they may include alternative names such as autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, yeast nutrient, sodium caseinate, gelatin, textured protein, calcium caseinate, torula yeast and yeast food. They use these fancy names to not boggle your mind. Majority of the processed foods contain this harmful component. Hence, check the label for these names if you wish to have honey that is free of MSG.
Contact information : The label includes details of the honey manufacturer. It gives the address and if possible the contact number of the manufacturer.
Nutrients contained in the honey: It is mandatory for every product to contain nutritional labeling. However, small manufacturers who sell less than 100,000 units of honey are exempted from this rule. The nutritional labeling will also include details of trans fats. As honey is free of fat you will generally see it as 0% fat. If you wish to be sure of nutritional value of the honey go for renowned large scale manufacturers who use nutritional labeling.
Details about country of origin: Due to climatic conditions, few varieties of honey are available only in specific parts of the world. For example, Greek thyme honey is found in only in Greece. Hence, check the label for the country of origin of honey.
Other terms used in labels of honey and guide you in purchasing the right variety
- Completely raw / Natural honey : This is an unheated honey that is not subject to any processing techniques such as pasteurization, filtration and straining. It gets crystallized easily and contains bee wax, plant pollen and propolis. If the honey bottle has been in shelf for few months then it would have already crystallized.
- Raw unfiltered honey : This honey variety is strained to get rid of larger particles such as remnants of comb etc. It may also have been subject to mild heating to ease the straining process. However, the heating is done only to a certain level to keep it raw. It also contains propolis and other minute particles. Like completely raw honey it is also rich in all enzymes.
- Creamed or spun honey : Few people love honey to have a creamy consistency to make it easy to spread honey on a toast. To fulfill such needs honey with creamy consistency is made from the crystallized honey. It is very delicious. But, it does not show all the properties expected in a raw honey as it is subjected to mild pasteurization.
- Pasteurized honey : This honey is subject to pasteurization to improve the shelf life. Hence, it is devoid of all the useful enzymes. It also gets crystallized very slowly compared to raw honey.
- Organic honey : If the honey bees collect nectar from blossoms of trees that are grown in natural environment without use of pesticides and fertilizers then the unprocessed honey extracted from such combs is termed as raw organic honey. It is the purest form of honey and may even look dirty due to presence of debris. It contains very high nutritional value and medicinal properties.
Guidelines for purchasing a good quality honey
Honey is great for health but unfortunately market is full of spurious honey brands which claim to be genuine. Such honey can do more harm than good to your health. Thus it is important to be careful while purchasing honey.
- If you have identified a good brand stick to it. A honey packet which has no details of what it contains, contact address is mostly not genuine. There are some niche suppliers of honey and they are a great choice to buy good honey.
- Depending on the purpose you wish to purchase honey pay attention to all the details of labels of honey.
- If you are purchasing it as a replacement to sugar then any honey that is free of additives will do.
- If you are purchasing to get benefited from its specific properties such as the antibacterial property make sure to purchase the raw honey that is not subject to any kind of processing such as pasteurization.
- To avoid the risk of additives and false labeling choose renowned honey manufacturers.
- Always read the reviews about the honey manufacturer before purchasing.
Before picking a honey bottle pay attention to minor details given in labels of honey such as common name, quantity, extent of antibacterial activity, extent of processing done, presence of additives and the nutritive value. If you do not have nearby large scale honey manufacturers who follow the labeling standards it is better to purchase honey directly from farmers. This will ensure obtaining raw honey that has all desired properties and also rich in nutrients.