What is “Raw” honey?

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You may have come across the term “Raw Honey” before. While there are no food regulations in Singapore defining what “raw honey” is, it can be said that this term is a mere marketing term. The literal definition of raw is – not cooked. Honey, as we know it, does not require any cooking before consuming. Why, then, do companies sell you “raw” honey?

Generally, raw honey means honey that has not undergone any pasteurisation. During harvest, bees store their honey in honeycombs and seal it with a layer of beeswax once each comb is full. During honey extraction, the honeycombs are broken to allow liquid honey to flow out. To allow honey to flow easier, honeycombs are heated to a temperature of 30-35°C, approximately the internal temperature of a natural beehive.

Beekeepers from Taylor Pass Sweet Nature Honey

Beekeepers from Taylor Pass Sweet Nature Honey

Pasteurisation is when honey is heated to higher temperatures above 65°C. At higher temperatures, it is natural for some nutrients in food to denature.

Pasteurisation could be done for a few reasons. First, if the bees did not do a good job with the honey, the moisture content of the honey may be higher than it is supposed to be and will result in fermentation of the honey over time. Pasteurisation helps to reduce the moisture content in the honey, thereby ensuring the honey does not ferment. Second, some honey is pasteurised at higher temperatures so it can be super filtered through a very fine filter to remove any remaining microscopic pollen grains. Companies that usually do this try to mask the true origin of the honey as pollen grains allow laboratories to trace the floral mix and hence, the approximate geographical location of where a batch of honey is produced.

How do you know if your honey has been pasteurised?
If honey is heated to temperatures of 40°C and above, the natural sugar in honey is broken down into a substance called Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). HMF is therefore a sign of heat damage to the honey and can be tested in food laboratories. The CODEX standards (Codex Alimentarius, an internationally recognised guideline on food production and safety) recommend a maximum limit of 40mg/kg HMF in honey.

So if my honey doesn’t mention “Raw” on its label, does it mean it has been pasteurised?
Not necessarily. Check with your retail store on where their honey is sourced from, whether the exporting country has any regulations on honey quality, what do they mean by “raw” honey, and whether their honey has been tested for HMF? Make sure you are getting the right natural goodness of honey for your buck and feeding yourself and your family food from the right source.

At Nature’s Nutrition, we bring you original New Zealand honey brands. Harvested, bottled and labelled in New Zealand in accordance to New Zealand’s honey regulations. While Singapore does not have any specific food regulations on honey, we ensure our honey supplies are produced in accordance to New Zealand’s honey regulations by sourcing from the right suppliers. Browse honey products here.

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