Inspections carried out by the State Food and Veterinary Service (SFVS) show no detected infringement related to the quality or safety of honey during the bee season of this year. Ninety-four samples of honey were selected from Lithuanian apiaries, points of sale and honey consignments imported from third countries. Residues of veterinary medicinal products, pesticides, heavy metals, and compliance with the technical regulation on honey were inspected. The inspection results were found to be in line with the legislation.
Just as with local honey suppliers, the SFVS also inspects the quality of honey imported into and exported from Lithuania. The quality is described in the Technical Regulation on Honey approved by the Minister for Agriculture of Lithuania and must comply with. No quality defects were detected this year, whether in domestic or imported honey. According to the data of the State Enterprise ‘Agricultural Information and Rural Business Centre’, there are about 216,000 bee colonies currently registered in Lithuania.
Honey: a sweet substance produced by bees (Apis mellifera) from the nectar of plants or from secretions of living parts of plants or excretions of plant-sucking insects, which the bees collect, transform by combining with specific substances of their own, deposit, dehydrate, store, and leave in honeycombs to ripen and mature.
Honey consists essentially of different sugars, predominantly fructose and glucose as well as other substances such as organic acids, enzymes and solid particles derived from honey collection.
When buying honey, the consumer should always check for the origin of the honey, which must be indicated on its label together with the name of the country of origin. It should be noted that during packaging there are cases of making honey mixtures by mixing honey of producers of several countries brought to the manufacturer. The labelling of honey may therefore, in accordance with the requirements of the Technical Regulation on Honey, contain the following indications, which the consumer should pay attention to:
• ‘Blend of EU honeys’ means that honey was produced by blending honey produced in apiaries from several EU countries (e.g., Polish and Lithuanian, etc.).
• ‘Blend of non-EU honeys’ means that honey was produced by blending honey produced in apiaries from non-EU countries (e.g., Chinese and Ukrainian, etc.).
• ‘Blend of EU and non-EU honeys’ means that honey was produced by blending honey from both EU countries’ and non-EU countries’ apiaries (e.g., Lithuanian and Chinese, etc.).
To get higher quality honey, it is worth making sure that it has not been subjected to high-temperature treatment before pre-packaging. Most Lithuanian beekeepers pack honey for sale immediately after it has been picked in order to ensure that the product is kept natural.
Attention should also be paid to the shelf-life, colour, consistency, and even smell of honey. Make sure that the honey is not covered in foam, as air bubbles in honey or its sour taste may indicate that the honey has fermented.
The quality of honey depends on the region in which honey was harvested, the natural conditions, the intensity of farming, and the predominant crops. Its colour and composition depend on the plants from which the bees collect nectar. The colour of honey may also depend on the time of the year, the species of bees, the age of the combs. The colour of honey varies from colourless to dark brown. The consistency may be liquid, viscous, partly or entirely crystallised.
Ideally, honey is stored in a dark, cool place in sealed glass containers. The room where honey is stored must be dry, well ventilated, and its humidity should not exceed 60 %. Honey may be stored in a cellar or in a refrigerator. The optimal temperature for storing is 5-10 °C. It is not advisable to store honey in zinc, copper, or iron containers. Plastic jars should be used to store honey only for its immediate consumption. Only mature honey from sealed whole combs with a moisture content not exceeding 20 % is suitable for long-term storage. According to the standards, there is no expiry date for honey. The expiry date is set by the honey producers themselves (usually 1 year), and the ‘best before’ date must be indicated on the labelling.