'The knowledge of bees is the basis of the beekeeper’s success; and for all other people who, amidst the whirl of present-day technology,
still prove to have a clear feeling for lively Nature, they are a source of joyful edification.’
The Dancing Bees, Karl Von Frisch, 1967
Our Wild Honey: As Raw as it Gets
|Tim Malfroy with his Warré Hives producing raw, unheated honey in the Blue Mountains, photo © Eric Tourneret|
The last article focused on pollen concentration and the incredibly high results achieved by our wild honeys. This article refers to the analysis of the HMF (Hydroxymethylfurfural) component in the same batch of honeys to determine whether they have been overheated during processing or storage.
Why Honey is Tested for Heat Application
It is scientifically proven and well understood amongst consumers that honey is a natural food with various health benefits, and excessive heating or processing will damage or remove some of those attributes.
When customers request ‘raw’ honey they are generally referring to a honey that is as minimally heated and processed as possible.
As commercial beekeepers, we’re aware of standard practises in the honey industry employed to liquify crystalised honey for bottling. Excessive heating of honey (at temperatures up to 70°C) and micro filtration to remove any particulates are common practises used to speed up processing and prevent re-crystallisation.
In contrast, we provide customers with a truly raw honey - either as Wild Honeycomb harvested straight from the hive, or by avoiding any intense and/or long periods of heat applied to our wild honey prior to bottling.
We never filter the honey, and we press the combs at ambient temperature. We only warm the combs to bee colony temperature (35°C) – the temperature the bees keep the combs at inside the nest – during cooler months when necessary for pressing.
Our honey is then bottled at 22°C and is stored inside our honey HQ at temperatures never exceeding 25°C.
Excessive heat can have detrimental effects on the nutritional value of honey, affecting the antibacterial components and changing the aroma, flavour and colour at different stages of heat.
|Fresh natural comb, built entirely by the bees, contains very low levels of naturally occuring HMF||Pressing natural comb at temperatures below 35°C preserves the nutritional integrity, health benefits and gastronomic qualities of our honey, photo © Kirsten Bradley|
|Fresh natural comb, built entirely by the bees, contains very low levels of naturally occuring HMF|
|Pressing natural comb at temperatures below 35℃ preserves the nutritional integrity, health benefits and gastronomic qualities of our honey, photo © Kirsten Bradley|
HMF stands for Hydroxymethylfurfural and is the main test for analysing whether a honey has been overheated during processing or storage.
What is HMF?
It is a naturally occurring chemical component of honey (and other foods) and increases with age and heat treatment. However, it is not toxic to humans in the small amounts found in some foods.
Some honey testing laboratories can provide a HMF ‘forecast’ that involves storage time and temperature, giving the producer a prediction of the HMF level in the future.
The Codex Alimentarius Honey Standard of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (United Nations) recommends a HMF limit in honey of 40mg/kg.
To give some perspective, fresh honey often has less than 10mg/kg HMF whereas roasted coffee has been found to have up to 2900mg/kg HMF.
The recommendations have a bearing on global trade of honey and export requirements however, testing is not required within Australia for local consumption.
|Harvesting post brood combs which are aged in the hive for up to 5 years. This unique honey has a slightly higher HMF reading, but is still well below the recommendations of the FAO||Malfroy’s Gold Wild honey varieties, Post Brood and Polyflora from the Blue Mountains that were used in the HMF testing, photo © Rob Locke
|Harvesting post brood combs which are aged in the hive for up to 5 years. This unique honey has a slightly higher HMF reading, but is still well below the recommendations of the FAO|
|Malfroy’s Gold Wild honey varieties, Post Brood and Polyflora from the Blue Mountains that were used in the HMF concentration testing, photo © Rob Locke
Our Blue Mountains Polyflora honey, which was bottled over a year ago, tested at 10mg/kg.
Our Blue Mountains Post Brood Polyflora honey, which is aged for up to 5 years in the hive, had 25mg/kg, still well below the UN recommendations despite the age of the honey.
In contrast, the Certified Organic ‘Raw’ honey that we randomly selected from a retail outlet had a high rating of 53mg/kg, suggesting that the honey had been overheated at some point.
Obviously a far larger sample size involving hundreds of honeys from different brands would be required to determine whether HMF levels across the board are meeting the recommended requirements. As stated, we use the test to guarantee our own honeys are always as far below the acceptable level as possible.
Another article on this topic is coming soon, with a more detailed and historical look at reasons why honey is often overheated and the innovative practices we have developed to avoid this. Sign up to our newsletter for updates!
In the coming weeks I will reveal the results of the Total Activity (TA) tests which measure the medicinal activity of a honey.
||Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) (mg/kg) *
|Malfroy's Gold Wild Honey Blue Mountains Polyflora||10mg|
|Malfroy's Gold Wild Honey Blue Mountains Post Brood Polyflora||25mg|
|Malfroy's Gold Wild Honey Mountain Meadow Post Brood Polyflora||9mg|
|Certified Organic Raw Honey +||53mg|
* FAO Recommended Maximum HMF Limit 40mg/kg, Analytica Laboratories, July 2021, Test Numbers: 21-31027, January 2023, Test Number: 22-45854