If you are a savvy shopper you likely know that buying raw unpasteurized honey is superior to regular old commercial honey. But you may have noticed that certified organic honey is hard to find. And when you do find it, you are probably wondering what the heck does that mean! I wondered the same… until I did the research.

So here is the scoop!

ORGANIC HONEY IN CANADA

Currently there are only a handful of certified organic honey products in Canada, and just two in Ontario. According to the Ontario Beekeepers Association, while many beekeepers practice organic management, few can meet the rigorous demands of the certification process, namely the requirement for a 3 km radius surrounding the hive of pesticide-free foraging area for the bees. Beekeepers are often faced with conventional farms and/or other industries within that radius.

If you are wondering why pesticides would be used for honey bees, Varroa mites are one example of a parasite that can infest honey bee colonies and shorten the lifespan of both adult bees and their growing brood. Typically toxic chemicals such as Apistan Strips (the active ingredient is fluvalinate) and coumaphos are used to kill Varroa Mites in the hive.   

Here is a brief summary of some key requirements for organic honey certification:

* must respect all general principles common to organic farming
* requires a 3 km. radius foraging area from the hive free of chemical pesticides (natural herbal compounds are allowed within limits)
* replacement bees should come from organic production units (where available)
* nectar, honeydew and pollen shall consist mainly of organically produced plants and wild vegetation
* organic honey and pollen must make up the bulk of feed for adult bees

The above article is from my book THE CONFIDENT FOOD SHOPPER which can be found on AMAZON!

ORGANIC HONEY IN THE US

You will find certified organic honey here in the US, but it is problematic. For starters, for some reason, the USDA allows honey to be certified despite the absence of specific practice standards. The USDA is currently developing specific standards. Apparently, most certified organic honey in the US is imported from Brazil and Mexico, and therefore meets those countries specific standards as well as the USDA’s general organic standards. 

If your certified organic honey is made in the US then you should be aware that certifiers are granting certification based on USDA organic rules that generally apply to livestock. US beekeepers may voluntarily adhere to specific standards such as those in the EU.  Honey coming from the EU, Canada and the UK is likely trustworthy as they have rigorous standards. 

For countries that do have specific standards, one of the common demands which makes certification quite difficult is the requirement for a 3 km. radius foraging area from the hive free of chemical pesticides. Beekeepers are often faced with conventional farms and/or other industries within that radius.  This means that even if specific standards are introduced in the US, many bee keepers might not opt for it.

If you are wondering why pesticides would be used for honey bees, Varroa mites are one example of a parasite that can infest honey bee colonies and shorten the lifespan of both adult bees and their growing brood. Typically toxic chemicals such as Apistan Strips (containing fluvalinate) and coumaphos are used to kill Varroa Mites in the hive.   

My advice is to be familiar with the general standards that other countries apply to organic beekeeping and then to make inquiries regarding your brand. Here is a brief summary of some key requirements for certified organic honey from your Canadian neighbors:

* must respect all general principles common to organic farming
* requires a 3 km. radius foraging area from the hive free of chemical pesticides (natural herbal compounds are allowed within limits)
* replacement bees should come from organic production units (where available)
* nectar, honeydew and pollen shall consist mainly of organically produced plants and wild vegetation
* organic honey and pollen must make up the bulk of feed for adult bees

The above article is from my book THE CONFIDENT FOOD SHOPPER which can be found on AMAZON!

RESOURCES
http://www.ontariobee.com/research/getting-started/thinking-organic
http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/ongc-cgsb/programme-program/normes-standards/internet/bio-org/principes-principles-eng.html
https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling
https://www.cbi.eu/sites/default/files/market_information/researches/product-factsheet-germany-organic-honey-2015.pdf

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