According to Food Safety News, a third or more of all honey consumed in the United States has been smuggled illegally into the US and may contain antibiotics and heavy metals. Some honey doesn’t even contain real honey at all. So how can a honey lover know that their locally sourced honey is the real deal? Cue Vaughn Bryant, the honey detective who can tell whether or not your honey is what it claims to be.
Bryant, an anthropologist and melissopalynologist at Texas A & M, analyzes pollen traces left by bees in honey to determine where the bees that harvested the nectar came from. As a melissopalynologist (a scientist who studies bee pollen in honey) Bryant uses his lab in College Station, Texas to test hundreds of samples every year, checking everything from $50 jars of top-shelf honey to the average stuff brought in by state agricultural agencies.
Honey produced in India, which often finds its way across US borders, is banned in the EU due to questionable content. Banned Indian and Chinese honey ends up being brought to the US, where demand for honey outstrips supply. Additionally, with honey connoisseurs willing to pay for top shelf product, average honey can be passed off as a high-end product to fetch a higher price. Bryant explains that bees rarely stray far from their hives, so pollen is a good indicator of where the bees reside. “When I start finding stuff native to the northwest in Florida honey, I know something’s wrong,” By scanning the honey for identifiable pollen, he can determine where the honey was made, regardless of what it says on the label. For a country that consumes about 400 million pounds of honey a year, having Bryant on the case is a welcome development.