What are the differences between organic honey and regular honey? What is raw honey? What is organic honey? What’s the difference between them? Marketing is playing with our knowledge and uses different terms to attract buyers.

There are two major types of honey considering:
• organic farming: Organic honey and Regular honey.
• processing: Raw honey and Processed honey.

Regular honey may imply:

  • regular crops/fields/ forests which may have been sprayed with pesticides or had synthetically fertilized lands;
  • bees’ treatment with antibiotics (such as Ciprofloxacin in China’s honey) and winter nourishment with sugar, or low cost syrup (cane, corn, beet, rice, tapioca or others fruit syrup);
  • hives made of non-organic materials, which may have pests, mice, spiders and be cleaned with non-organic substances;
  • the extracted honey is pasteurized and filtered which implies heating at high temperatures, destroys enzymes and increasing the level of toxins;
  • added additives.

There is set of standards and conditions that must be fulfilled in order to certify honey as “organic”.  They consider:

honey bees foraging area

  • The hives should be placed near clean water, on an area of 4 miles radius of natural organic crops (maximum distance bees travel from their hives), synthetic chemical-free vegetation, away from polluted areas like industrial zones, cities etc.

bee management:

  • all medical treatments necesarry to combat the bees parasites must be made of natural products that leave no chemical  residues in honey.
  • during winter, the bees should eat honey, but if too much honey was taken, then they should be fed only organic supplements (honey, sugar, fruit concentrate etc).

honey management:

  • Hives must be made of natural materials and if painted, using non-toxic paint, kept free of mites, spiders, mice and other pests.
  • The entire process of extracting the honey, processing temperature, packaging materials, storage and transportation should follow the standard rules and be made using natural organic materials.
  • Analyses must be made to prove that there are no chemical residues (synthetic pesticides or other materials such as cleaning products or repellents, antibiotics or synthetic medicine etc. A single gram of antibiotics can contaminate 100 tons of honey!)
  • No additives should be added to the original honey. E.g.: sugar, corn syrup, sweeteners, non-compliant honey etc.

All these standards were first stated by Europe Union and then followed by many other countries such as New Zealand and Australia.

In US,  the USDA 100% organic seal is not a guarantee for organic honey. There are few federal standards for honey, but no government certification and no consequences for making false claims.

In Europe Union, the rules on organic honey are very clear, and the law in EU is so strict that it is very difficult for beekeepers to comply with it.  European rules state that within a radius of three kilometers from the apiary site, nectar and pollen sources must be essentially organic.  This is only the tip of the iceberg and there are many more rules relating to the hive construction, hive management and honey processing too. The organic certification means that the beekeepers have to get the approval of compliance with regulations for:
  • production;
  • processing;
  • products;
  • labelling;
  • trade;
  • export;
  • social standards (by associations),
by accredited private certification agencies under oficial state control. And after they passing all the procedures the certification body will issue the certificate for organic producer.

What does this all mean for people looking to buy genuine organic honey? You are going to find a lots of organic honey on the shelves of any major supermarket, but because most likely all of it will be produced outside of the Europe Union, you really can’t be sure what the organic label means without doing a lot of digging around to check out the certifying body stated on the label. And if there is no certifying body stated on the label – forget it!

The result of all the strict Europe Union rules is that EU honeys are one of the most quality in the world and when the customers see the honey labeled as EU Organic they can be sure - the honey is that it is what it claims to be.