Skip to Main Content

The Not-So-Sweet World of Honey

Written by PETA | January 20, 2011

Although consumers don’t necessarily see “Made in China” on honey labels, a new exposé published in the UK’s Globe and Mail tells of the almost spy-thriller-like process in which honey produced in China travels through southeast Asia and onto millions of tables—and into millions of stomachs—around the world.

don hankins/cc by 2.0

In China, where the overwhelming majority of the honey ingested globally originates, beekeepers attempt to keep bees alive by feeding them antibiotics that are banned in North America because the drugs can seep into and contaminate the honey. The honey is often intentionally mislabeled as originating elsewhere, and is also diluted with sugar and corn syrup.

In a companion article, the National Academy of Sciences reports that the U.S. bee population has seen a dramatic decline in recent years due to inbreeding and habitat loss, and that changes must be made to end the bees’ spiral toward extinction. Agave nectar, anyone?

Commenting is closed.
  • emi says:

    We shouldnt fight like this here. We are all here for the same cause, no? If we start fighting from within then we cant work together to fight the real force- overall animal cruelty.

  • ocean17 says:

    @ kevinm don’t eat honey. go vegan. practice a cruelty-free and compassionate lifestyle. make better food choices. connect the dots. problem solved.

  • kevinm says:

    so how does one know for sure which honey has been adulterated or it’s place of origin? what are laws re:honey in this country? what brands are reputable? most important,what brands are cut with corn syrup? there is also a scandal involving olive oil that is falsely labeled “extra virgin”. where do i get the straight dope on real honey?

  • ocean17 says:

    @ jadewarlock

    from the not-so-sweet world of honey :

    “In China, where the overwhelming majority of the honey ingested globally originates, beekeepers attempt to keep bees alive by feeding them antibiotics that are banned in North America because the drugs can seep into and contaminate the honey.”

    wrong. read it again if totally nescafe. and please pay attention.. your thick, diffuse remarks are tedious and meaningless.

    @ Kat

    do some reasearch please, everthing you have managed to state here is either not factual, is a silly piece of disinformtion/watered down propaganda or hides essential elements, as it refers to beekeeping practices. it is not natural to enslave bees, neither is taking their honey.

    have a nice day.

  • jadewarlock says:

    Oh, Ocean, PETA doesn’t say that most honey is produced in China. It actually says that it can and does travel around the world. At least read the article correctly please. I personally buy local honey myself – it tastes better and helps me keep my allergies under control. Haven’t had an asthma attack (genetic asthma BTW), in years because of it.

  • Atom254 says:

    @ocean17 Have you gone and done some of the research by yourself or did you just get all your information off the PETA blog? And im sorry but enslaved? I thought that bees are free to just go out and leave.

  • Kat says:

    Ocean, I’m younger than you and I know for a fact they can’t be treated “cruelly.” Tell me how a flying bee with a stinger can be enslaved? They’d sting you first.

    And how can they be cruelly treated? Smoke –  I watched how beekeepers got honey in school – does nothing more than keep them calm. And if they’re not calm, they’ll sting you.

    What alternatives are there for sweeteners? – Sugar is just as bad for you and most of the vegan sweeteners I’ve read of are just as bad for you nutritionally as you say honey is.

  • jadewarlock says:

    Um, no Ocean, it’s not a strawman. There is indeed artificial honey – aka “fake” honey, out there. Let’s nitpick here shall we: For starters, can you give me a site other than to verify your claims? I’d like a neutral source to support your claims – because I have actually been to and experienced REAL beekeeping. Ocean: and your “feelgood” commentary is riddled with inaccuracies and curious exclusions of fact concerning commercial beekeeping. Answer: Ocean – it’s not feelgood, it’s facts and telling the truth. Ocean: including – replacement of queens, Answer: You kill the queen, you will destroy the hive. You also cannot have two queens in the same place, or the workers will destroy the intruder. Ocean: genetic modifications, Answer: Yes, there have been genetic modifications, which lead to the creation of the Africanized (killer) bee. However, this is not inbreeding, and those bees do not produce honey. Ocean: destruction of individual bees and the hive, enslavement, Answer: Simply put, you can’t “enslave” a flying animal, and especially one with stinging barbs that can kill you. Ocean: Transportation, unnatural food sources, loss of habitat, etc. Answer: Again, you can transport bees, but not easily. They still must have a place to build a hive and POLLEN to feed off of. You also cannot fill their hive with artificial stuff -they won’t eat it and will leave the hive. And – they can live in just about anything that can be used to create a hive – tree, can, interior of a house. Ocean: go to the site for a more ocmprehensive overview. honey is not vegan, plain and simple. Answer: Honey as the material is – it’s pollen turned into bee spit. You are against how it is created, which is your right to believe. THAT alone is how it’s “Non-vegan.” Please, I encourage you to go to a beekeeper’s society and get educated.

  • ocean17 says:

    @ jadewarlock

    i don’t understand this “fake” honey strawman you are munkeying around with here, since according to the PETA blog : [an] overwhelming majority of the honey..originates [from China].”

    and your “feelgood” commentary is riddled with inaccuracies and curious exclusions of fact concerning commercial beekeeping.  including – replacement of queens, genetic modifications, destruction of individual bees and the hive, enslavement, transportation, unnatural food sources, loss of habitat, etc. go to the site for a more ocmprehensive overview. honey is not vegan, plain and simple.

    @ Kat you are ignoring the cruel mistreatment of bees during the production of honey for human consumption. yes bees make honey from pollen and nectar, but that is not the entire story. they are enslaved and cruelly treated. this is wrong, especially when there are so many alternatives available, for nutritious sweetners.

  • Kat says:

    PETA, pollen is how bees make honey. Bees also know how to go out and make more when we take it out. I’m an junior high kid and I know that much.

  • ocean17 says:

    honey is not vegan and colony collapse disorder is a well defined phenomenom has many causes, including : climate change, environmental toxins, pesticides, habitat loss, gmo crops, parasites and pathogens and cellphone tower radiation. this is happening all over the globe, not just here in north america.

  • Micale says:

    PETA, I have to agree with jade – basic knowledge of honey is that it comes from pollen, not nectar. It’s why they’re well and popular for cross-pollination.

    And like Jade, I’ve seen some neat places bees have found homes. I have also sadly seen the results of hive destruction – mostly by critters such as skunks. Since finding deterrents (not harmful ones mind you), that has been reduced.

    But I have to disagree with one point too – they don’t replace the honey in the hives. The bees know to go gather more pollen and make more – or some beekeepers go out of their way to collect pollen to feed their bees.

    Artificial – fake – honey must be labeled, but after a score of illnesses in our area, we got them to pass a law saying that  they must be tested to be sure it’s real honey.

    BTW, Did you know that honey lasts for centuries? – it doesn’t spoil. In fact, a gross but true story I read was that there were two archaeologists who found an Egyptian tomb. Prying off one of the tops, they found it full of honey and started eating it. After a few bites, one had hair in it, and found that inside was a fetus that had been preserved in the honey.

  • Jadewarlock says:

    PETA, I am someone who is part of a beekeeper’s society and have seen a beekeeping process from start to finish. I know *exactly* what I’m talking about.

    As you have been polite in posting my responses, I ask that you do it again, and allow people to hear the other side from someone in the industry – who BTW abhors fake honey because it does harm us with fake calories and no nutritional value. I find what China is doing wrong.

    That said, here is again the other side of the debate.

    Again, bees collect POLLEN, which they turn into bee vomit and put into the cells, seal it up and tell their fellow bees where to find flowers by dances.

    Yes, honey is bee vomit, not nectar. Not a pleasant way to describe it, but I’ll call it what it is.

    I know and understand that there are those such as China who try to pass off fake honey as the real McCoy. There is artificial honey in the United States, but most of the reputable groups list it as such. Others have been challenged and have such been tested.

    When honey is taken out from the honeycomb, the bees go back out and gather more pollen to make honey for the comb again. People DO NOT replace honey with a “sugar based substitute” in the hives – it’d kill the bees as you say. That said, bees for the most part are smart enough to know that it’s fake and will move to another hive.

    When you also move the bees, you move them locally, not nationally and ONLY if their hives are destroyed or if the location isn’t safe for the bees or the people on the property, such as the case I mentioned with the tree.

    It would be stupid to move them across the nation – not only would it make it impossible for the bees to find proper flowers to make honey, it can create issues if they are moved to areas with Africanized (killer) bees.

    Bees have few pests, and several we can control ourselves through simple treatments.

    Finally, you cannot factory farm bees. Bees cannot be confined to a single location – they FLY of all things. You can’t corral bees – they’ll move elsewhere if they feel threatened or the source is not good.

    And seriously, no one in their right mind would ever keep bees in an enclosed location due to health and safety issues.

    I encourage you and your readers to go to a beekeeper’s association meeting and learn more about bees – they’re fascinating creatures. Ask questions about how bees work (I would ask to keep protests out – we’re willing to listen you without any problems) and use that information to spread on how we can help bees – as well as ourselves – by stopping those who do create fake honey to put in bottles.

  • PETA says:

    @jadewarlock – Bees collect and use nectar to make honey, which provides vital nourishment for them, especially during the winter. Large commercial operations often take all the honey that the bees produce instead of leaving the modest amount that bees need to survive through the winter. They replace the rich honey with a cheap sugar-based substitute that leaves bees susceptible to sickness and attack from other insects. Since it’s increasingly difficult to find healthy honeybees, farmers have resorted to trucking hives across the country. For more info:

  • jadewarlock says:

    You’re welcome Atom. I have seen an old tree that was nothing but a hive with honey. It was indeed amazing. They had a beekeeper come and collect the bees to take to another hive – again near a high pollen area – as a lightning bolt had ruined their present home. They are fascinating in their own right. I will say that we must be careful though and do our part to reduce the more harmful chemicals out there to reduce the risk of bees dying. They can be harmed by the insecticides and herbicides that we spray on crops. Greener fertilizers help out here, as would insects that love the destructive ones (i.e. lady bugs eating aphids I believe). I have little doubt that we are part of the problem, but I don’t think we’re the only problem. Finally, I hate this whole “fake honey” being produced out there. Some people eat local honey to ward off some of the more harmful allergens – the pollen in the honey can build up a resistance. Fake honey does nothing but add calories and can make people sick.

  • Atom254 says:

    Wow! Jade I didnt even know some of that stuff! I say that everyone read his post.

  • ocean17 says:

    wow. diluted and contaminated with antibiotics that aren’t approved and banned here in NorthAmerica. that ought to tell you something. i quit honey because of it’s not vegan, because of the cruelty factor and because there are so many other nutritious alternatives out there.. a no brainer really.

  • jadewarlock says:

    PETA: 1. Honey is made from flowers and fruit. It’s just as vegan as if you were to go out and eat pollen yourselves. 2. In the United States, there are laws requiring the testing of honey to make sure it’s real honey and not the fake stuff. There are hefty fines assessed for fake honey. 3. The “scientific claim” is false – there is an event going on called habitat collapse that no one in the science world can explain. It has nothing to do with inbreeding or habitat loss. 4. In regard to “habitat loss” do you guys NOT get that bees have their hives in things from the hives we produce to trees, coffee cans, inside houses, and the like. and 5. To counter Sixfingered, we are not stealing bee’s food. Honey does not spoil and bees are well-known to recycle their own hives and honey in case of hard weather to survive. I’d sure love some answers to these debate points – and here on the board so people can read up and decide for themselves. Or, as I would presume, you will go and ignore this comment and go on your merry way giving incorrect information.

  • Sixfingered says:

    Wow I had no idea about the things talked about in the report. Not wanting to steal the bees’ food has always been enough to keep me from eating it, but this report gives plenty of reasons for non vegans to give it up as well.