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Syracuse Area Club

Honey Definition Q &A


Questions about the
New York Standard of Identity for Honey
(Technical Definition of Honey)

   1)    Q- What is a Standard of Identity for Honey (SOI)?
           A-The SOI would provide a technical description of honey that is sold in New York. It just defines the word HONEY, that is all. When someone buys honey here in New York, it should meet certain standards to ensure that consumers are buying pure honey (Truth in Labeling). Olive oil and vinegar have technical definitions, yet honey does not.

   2) Q- Why is a honey standard needed?
       A-To help prevent the sale of adulterated honey .There have been far too many instances of adulterated and contaminated honey entering the United States, much of it from China. Currently, if diluted honey is discovered, there are no laws on the books adequately describing what honey is. The current definition of honey (NYS Ag & Markets, circular 911 section 205) is a one sentence statement unchanged since 1902.

   3) Q- Why is a honey definition important?
       A- Truth in Labeling. When someone buys honey in New York State, they can have some assurance that they are buying real honey. Having a Standard of Identity for Honey will protect the image and integrity of honey as a pure, natural food and increase the confidence of the consumer. It also would help to prevent the dumping of cheap, imported honey, which would depress the price of honey for the beekeeper producer and packer.

    4) Q- Do other States have a honey standard?
        A-Yes, Florida, California, North Carolina, Wisconsin and several other states recently enacted Standards of Identity for Honey. Many other States are in the process of developing a SOI. Also, the National Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, and the National Honey Packers & Dealers Association have all passed resolutions to support a Standard of Identity for Honey.

    5) Q- How was this standard/definition determined?
        A- All the honey standards in the USA are extracts of the International Honey Standard, which is used in Europe. The current proposed honey standard (S3321) is copied from the California honey definition, with 2 changes. The CA definition was authored by Eric Mussen PhD, UC Davis; and has been accepted by the CA honey industry for over 2 1/2 years. CA ranks #2 in US domestic honey production.

    6) Q- Why don't we have a National definition for Honey?
        A- The FDA has been petitioned several times over the past 6 six years to enact a definition for honey. Finally, in late 2011 the FDA issued a statement with their refusal for a honey definition. Most likely the only way we will get a National definition is for more states to enact a technical honey definition.
There is a National Honey Grading Scale, which sorts honey according to color, clarity, etc, which is similar to grading eggs, but it does not define honey.

   7) Q- What are the current laws on honey in New York State?
       A- NY Ag & Markets law has 2 sections pertaining to honey, Sections 205206: Section 205 “Defining Honey”, is what Bill S3321 seeks to change, to establish a
technical definition for pure honey; this one sentence law is inadequate and has been unchanged since 1902. Section 206 pertains to the labeling of honey-- if ANY OTHER ingredients are added to the honey, this law covers it. It has been referred to as the Honey Labeling law.

   8) Q- Can I still sell flavored honey, like creamed flavored honey?
       A- Yes, the existing law Section 206 already covers that.

   9) Q- Why are certain flowers listed and not others?
        A- The nectar from flowers listed such as Alfalfa, citrus, lavender, etc are internationally known exceptions to the 5% sucrose rule; all other blossom honeys should have no more than
5% sucrose.

   10) Q- What if I give my bees winter feed, could this get in the early honey?
         A- The Spring increase of the bees should consume the feed. Winter feeding of bees has not been an issue in California & North Carolina.

   11) Q- Why is the moisture content 18.6%?
        A- Honey will ferment over 18.6% moisture. The Federal Honey Loan program required that honey be no higher than 18.6% moisture. Using a refractometer is good business practice, to ensure quality control of your product. There are many methods, for both small & large scale honey production, to reduce the moisture if it is high. North Carolina's honey standard of identity has a limit of 18.6%.

    12) Q- What about varietals like buckwheat, clover honey?
          A-Once a definition of honey is established, perhaps standards for monofloral or varietal honey can be determined.

    13) Q- Will honey houses be required to be inspected as a result?
          A- No, enacting a new Standard of Identity for Honey will only change the current NYS definition of honey (Section 205) and not alter other Ag & Market regulations. The proposed honey standard just defines the word HONEY (pure honey); That's it. It does not change any current food inspection laws or add any enforcement laws.

    14) Q- What about honey that has had pollen removed?
          A- A recent news report revealed that some honey is marketed which has had the pollen removed. This is done by a process called ultra-filtration, which removes dust, pollen and air bubbles to prolong the liquid state of shelf honey. Most people assume that there is pollen in honey, which leads to the perception that honey is a pure, natural, healthful food. Perhaps in the future, removal of pollen should be noted on the ingredient label, in response to consumer demand.

For further information, see the Empire State Honey Producers Association website,, or

Contact: Pat Bono-

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