Food Labels: Wall of Shame

Have you ever seen a brand name product on the shelf labeled with something like "Sweetened with Honey" and wondered just how much honey (if any) is actually in the food?

In the December 2011 edition of the American Bee Journal Bill Kentor, President Great Foods Inc, talks about being in the honey business and selling honey to food producers and packagers.

He recalls having conversations with food ingredient buyers who indicated they used honey in their products to help sell their product. They report that sales of honey-sweetened foods exceed sales of foods sweetened with other sweeteners.

So how much honey are they using? Are they even using any honey?

The declining content of honey in processed foods was studied by a concerned beekeeper Jim Fisher. Jim Fisher's "Wall of Shame" identifies many popular foods that have little or no honey in it, and the "Hall of Fame" that does actually have quite a bit of honey in it.

A few things to note before jumping over to Jim's site:

The FDA defines "Natural Flavor" as the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

I suppose that honey, a derivative of plant material (nectar), can be labeled as "natural flavor" and not specifically called out on the label. Although I have to wonder why would anyone want to hide honey by labeling it as "natural flavor"??

If a product lists "natural flavor" on their label, we can't be certain that there is no amount of honey in it. However, we can determine how much honey is used in comparison to other sweeteners by how far down the list of ingredients the word "natural flavor" or even "honey" appears on the ingredients list. If it's listed below other sweeteners, that there is more other types of sweeteners than there is honey.

Bill Kentor suggests that it's insufficient to identify a problem without also suggesting a solution. What can be done to make food product labels more accurate with regards to honey ingredients?

We can voice our requests to the FDA, that they require at least 10% honey be used in any product that displays the word "honey" on the front of the label.

After all, the FDA currently has the same 10% minimum requirement for the use of Maple Syrup when the word "Maple syrup" is displayed on labels.

Comments For This Post: (3) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Diane (SpeedKin) says...
Date:   November 29, 2011, 11:54 am

FYI:  I've been following your blog via my RSS reader for a long time now.  Each post comes through dated 1969 so gets buried in, well, everything since the last few decades.  LOL  I see it's dated correctly here so not sure where the problem is.  I'm subbed to gobs of blogs but yours is the only one that does it.

No biggie on my end since I sort by unread for the buried ones.  Just thought you might like to know in case it's a setting on your end that affects everyone.

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   November 29, 2011, 1:47 pm

That's too funny!

If you don't mind (or anyone else who experiences this) please click "Contact Me" link and send me your e-mail address so we can chat and I can see if we can determine the cause!

I looked at the raw XML for the RSS and it shows dates correctly, and my Google Feed Reader seems to be ok...but maybe other readers expect a different date format?

Diane (SpeedKin) says...
Date:   November 30, 2011, 6:03 pm

Done.  :-)

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