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I recently purchased a jar of Very Raw Honey from my local market. I purchased it because it was on sale, but eventually I looked up whether it was safe or not to eat and came across articles such as this and this one. The label on the jar says its 100% unfiltered. Also, I don't know if the articles means truly raw (as in straight from the honey comb) and whether or not the jar of honey I purchased is the same as raw honey that comes straight from the honey comb.

Is it safe to consume? Is the Madhava honey the same stuff that I would get straight from a honey comb?


Upate: So from the post, honey is safe to eat, which I was aware of, but what about raw honey (at least raw honey purchased in stores)? It's still unclear to me.

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    honey is generally raw – rumtscho Feb 10 '14 at 19:40
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    "Raw" typically means "unpasteurized", which -- as others have mentioned -- is safe for non-infants. I'd not eat unfiltered honey because of of the bug bits, etc. – RonJohn Oct 3 '17 at 20:14
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If the honey has always had a water content below ~18% and is continuously stored in a sealed container (for instance a glass jar), it is perfectly safe to eat as long as you are over 1 year old. In fact, pasteurized honey is inferior in quality. The pollen and spores will remain in there either way, even if they're dead and can only be removed by (expensive) filtering. So if you got an allergy to that, don't eat honey. But they (pollen, yeasts) are not generally harmful. Botulism is not a concern unless you take medication that reduces the amount of acid your stomach produces.

Acid inhibits the growth in the stomach, your (good) bacteria in the gut (after the acid has been neutralized) will then continue to protect you. Since infants don't have sufficient/stable composition of bacteria yet, they are in (higher) danger of getting botulism. But even then, they rarely get infected. No point in taking the risk, tho.

Honey is hygroscopic, meaning it will draw moisture from it's surroundings (hence the sealed container). This effectively prevents pathogens to grow, preserving the honey as long as the water content of the honey remains at or below 18%.

In fact, here in germany, honey may not be subjected to temperatures higher than 40°C, it may contain no additives at all and the only thing you can do to it is filter the pollen out. We still don't have waves of botulism from honey here. In fact, I have never once heard of one.

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    It's the property of hygroscopy that honey has that prevents the bacteria (and yeast, which is also present in honey) to grow. What this means is that the honey will "suck out" the water from the bacteria. But water is essential for all life (on earth anyway). You can make this effect visible if you put a little pile of sugar or salt on a plate or something and then put a couple of drops of water on the side of it. You will see the water getting drawn away from the point where you put it. – Anpan Feb 6 '14 at 19:46
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    @Jefromi Botulinum bacteria will not grow or produce toxins in honey, but the spores are almost always present in raw honey. The native bacteria in the digestive tract fend off botulinum bacteria, except in infants, whose digestive flora are not sufficient developed. – WasabiFlux Feb 6 '14 at 20:27
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    It is perfectly safe to eat as long as you are over 1 year old - babies should not eat honey because of the botulism issue. – Kate Gregory Feb 6 '14 at 20:28
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    @Anpan If there's important new information in the comments it's best to edit it in (which I did) not just acknowledge in the comments. It's generally helpful to readers, and especially in this case, we don't want anyone feeding honey to a baby because they read the post and not the comments. – Cascabel Feb 6 '14 at 22:08
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    @Jefromi: "Water Activity" is the concept people are talking around (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_activity) ...It's basically a rating that describes, not how much water is in a substance, but how available the contained water is for reactions. Honey has a water activity number of 0.6. Most fungi require a water activity of at least .7, and most bacteria require .9 or above. Pure water is the base line with a water activity of 1. – Satanicpuppy Feb 7 '14 at 16:29
5

I'm a beekeeper who produces and sells raw unfiltered honey, so here's the scoop. The US Food and Drug Administration had two standards for liquid honey: Filtered and Strained. If liquid honey is not strained or filtered to remove objectionable material, it can not legally be sold as "honey". Filtered honey is typically produced by heating honey to around 150 deg. F, pumping through diatomaceous Earth filters (to remove all particles) and then flash cooling. That's what you usually find on grocery shelves. Strained honey (like mine) is passed one or more strainers to remove objectionable materials. "Raw honey" is also not FDA-defined but is generally interpreted as Strained and Unheated. Strained honey is normally warmed for ease of extraction and bottling. "Unheated" is often meant to mean "not heated above hive temperatures", but again, is not FDA defined. Both filtered and strained honey are generally safe for human consumption.

4

This answer is an extension to Anpan's which is correct, this is just to mention an edge case, that being poisoning (not due to botulism which is easily handled by an adult stomach). The first of the two links in the question does mention this.

Certain pollen's produce toxic honey. The mountain laurel being an example. An account of mass poisoning using toxic honey was the first account of military use of a toxic agent to overcome a large force: .https://modernfarmer.com/2014/09/strange-history-hallucinogenic-mad-honey/ Fortunately such plants are typically uncommon, further just because something is toxic does not mean it will cause issues. Most vitamins have a toxic limit for which your body will exhibit no negative side effects beneath a certain quantity, this is true of most toxins.

The chances of experiencing toxicity is much greater when taking honey directly from the honey comb, at least in areas that have such plants, rather than if the honey is extracted and mixed, as its concentration is typically reduced to bellow the toxic threshold. The only typical case where this isn't true is around the Black Sea where mad honey is produced (commercially!).

Some people refer to buying "raw honey" as being from the honey comb, and this is much more risky. Many of these plants that produce toxic honey are exotic to my area and so I personally would not hesitate to eat honey from the comb if those hives were in a large rural area where bees would be hard pressed to find anything other than alfalfa and clover.

All this aside, even in cases of poisoning involving mad honey death is very rare.

If anything knowing the exception to the rule should make you feel more safe because the chance of such poisoning in north america from mixed raw honey is unheard of, I'm not aware of risks in other parts of the world but expect only the black sea region to pose any risk if the honey is mixed.

Here is a list of plants which are bad for bees, among the list includes plants from which toxic honey is produced: http://www.countryfile.com/countryside/top-ten-plants-are-bad-bees

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We buy our honey from boys coming down the street with a 5 Gal. bucket & a honey comb in it. Bring your own bottle. The comb is mashed over a funnel with a rag filter. Into your bottle or jar. Raw as you can get. Never heard of any one getting sick yet from it. Dip your finger in the honey first & taste it. It comes in many flavors & colors.

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