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[Apiculture Reports from around the World] Germany
My Encounter with the "Honey Standard"
in a Developed Apiculture Country, Germany.

Germany map

Visiting the "God of Apiculture."

Stuttgart is the capital of Baden Wurttemberg, a southeastern region of Germany. Our journey in Germany, a land of honey standards, started from Stuttgart, the northern base of the Black Forest.

First, I visited Hohenheim University, one of the public institutions of the German Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to see Professor Emeritus G. Vorwohl, who is widely known as the "God of Apiculture."

At the time-honored Hohenheim University, Mr. Vorwohl told us with a dignified and mild expression about the "Honey Purification Act," which is said to stipulate the highest standards of honey purification in Europe.

"In Germany, we have a food law titled 'the Honey Purification Act' that stipulates the quality standards of honey. This law, enacted in 1976, provides extremely strict standards for honey purification. Sugar contents, HMF(Hyoroxymethylfurfural) and enzymes are among these standards."

The fact that enzymes, or diastase contents, were among the standards amazed me first of all. Enzymes turn starch into sugar which generates energy and they are very important ingredients in terms of the quality of honey. However, regulations or standards for the enzyme contents in honey have not been legislated in the United States, Australia or other Asian countries, including Japan. This one example clearly demonstrates the strictness of the German "Honey Purification Act." Seeing me surprised, Mr. Vorwohl continued.

"We have had regulations on enzyme contents in honey since 1931, which means that this standard has existed for a long time. American or Australian laws, which we call 'Anglo-Saxon laws,' are the ones made rather from manufacturers' standpoints, and these laws have standards that are relatively less strict than ours. On the other hand, our laws have standards based on consumers' standpoints, which explains the necessity for the strictness of these standards."

Regulations that have not been legislated in any other country until now have existed in Germany for more than 70 years. This fact alone clearly illustrates the history of honey production in this country.

Retaining the Original Ingredients of the Blessings of Nature.

Next, Mr. Vorwohl explained to us about the standards for HMF. HMF is hydroxymethyl furfural that is generated when honey is heated. By measuring the HMF contents in the honey, it is possible to check if the honey is overheated or not. Prevention of overheating is indispensable for honey production in order to avoid destroying nutrients, such as enzymes, contained in honey. The Yamada Bee Farm maintains the traditional production method of keeping the temperature lower than 45 degrees centigrade. However, popular production processes taken by other major honey makers in Japan and the United States heat honey to over 60 degrees centigrade and process it in a decompression caldron. Mr. Vorwohl gave us an explanation on this method of using a decompression caldron.

"That production method is not allowed in Germany. When the pressure is lowered by decompression equipment, the original aroma of honey is also lost. In Provision 3 of Article 2 of the "Honey Purification Act," it is stipulated that 'Any original ingredients of natural honey shall not be lost in the process of purification.' Therefore, the loss of the original aroma of honey is against this regulation."

This shows the idea of retaining the original ingredients of the blessings of nature. I feel this very idea is the unique German philosophy of honey production, which is valuable enough to be called the "Honey Purification Act." I also realized that the traditional production method that has been maintained by the Yamada Bee Farm was accredited by this German standard as the right one for maintaining the quality standards of honey.

"Forest Honey" and "Heather Honey."

Mr. Vorwohl told me a very interesting story about honey. In Germany, there is honey called "Forest Honey" or "Tree Honey." Trees are making sugar to live, and insects are eating it by digging holes in the trees. "Forest Honey" is taken from the sugar made in the woods. Especially in southwestern Germany, where the Black Forest is situated, "Forest Honey" is very popular and valuable. It ranks as the top level in terms of quality. In northern Germany, "Heather Honey" is taken from Erica, a shrub whose red flowers bloom in autumn. This is also a very popular kind of honey.

The names "Forest Honey" and "Heather Honey" give us a very fantastic image. This implies that honey is quite deeply connected with the daily life of German people.

Mr. Vorwohl had the kindness to take quite a long time to tell us and explain to us about honey and apiculture based on various data. Finally, he explained to us why such strict standards are laid down for honey production in Germany.

"Europeans have been the largest honey consumers in the world and we have been in the position of exporting it to the rest of the world. We have tried to differentiate ourselves from other lower-priced honey exporters by making better-quality honey. We took this policy not only to protect German apiculturists but also to prevent foreign-made honey of poor quality from coming in."

They take pride in their honey and keep the history and tradition that has been handed down over generations as a rigid regulation. What Mr. Vorwohl explained made me realize again why Germany is called "the land of the honey standard". I also realized that the quality standard and production method that the Yamada Bee Farm has maintained are the right ones under the German standards, which above all is a great satisfaction for me.

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