This was previously posted to my old blog, Itch, Swell, Ooze, Wheeze in August 2015. This is an updated version for 2020.
We went to Devon a few years ago on holiday and had the pleasure of visiting Quince Honey Farm, which I am pleased to say in 2020 is still going strong.
It is a strange combination of honey museum, live beehive exhibits (which were my favourite) and a soft play centre for the children, which was the main reason we paid a visit.
Allergy to honey is relatively uncommon, but has been known to cause anaphylaxis. It is thought that the cause of the allergic reaction is either from remnants of the bee in the honey or from minute traces of pollen.
As honey is not a top 14 allergen it may be harder to cater for those suffering from this allergy as it is added to processed food in various forms in things that you would not expect.
Look out for labels…
For those suffering with severe symptoms look for labels on baked goods, salad dressings, barbecue sauces, cereals, granola bars, smoothies, beers, and cocktails. They will not be labelled as an allergen on UK packaging, so make sure you check very carefully if you or your child suffers from a honey allergy.
Honey is also used as an ingredient in many cosmetics, including lip balms, moisturisers, and hair products, so if you suffer from severe reactions it is important to check ingredients on everything you use.
Honey is primarily sugar; proteins which may cause allergy have not yet been identified (if there are any).
The linked allergies are from what else may be within the honey, trace contaminants of:
- Pollen particles
- Antibiotics and herbicides
- Bee and hive remnants
Honey remains a rare allergy, despite the number of people suffering from pollen allergies, as most people are allergic to the pollen of trees and grass than they are to plant pollens.
However there have been studies showing honey which contained pollen from the plant family Compositae (which includes sunflower and ragweed) is more likely to cause allergic symptoms.
Honey can be mono-floral (honey made from a single type of plant) or multi-floral (honey from lots of different types of plants). E.g. Orange Blossom Honey is made from bees visiting only Orange Blossom plants. Most shop bought honey in the UK is multi-floral.
Honey is often pasteurised, which is not to kill bacteria, as is done in the milk industry, but to kill yeasts which are present from the nectar. It also gives a better appearance to the final product, but is claimed to reduce many of the health benefits, such as vitamins and minerals which may be lost in the heating process.
Non-pasteurised honey is often referred to as Raw Honey (sometimes Artisan Honey in the US) and is roughly filtered to remove large hive components, bee parts and wax which may have inadvertently got into the honey, whilst still retaining all the health benefits. As this is not heat treated to remove trace contaminants it is more likely to cause reactions.
Honey and Venom Links
The link between bee sting allergy and honey allergy is weak. Bee venom is made of several components which work in conjunction with each other; these can be partially lost in the honey making process and would not have the same effect when ingested (I have linked to studies below where links have been made in a couple of cases).
This is a blog and should not be used for advice on diagnosis or treatments. If you think you may have a food allergy please contact your GP in the first instance to discuss treatment options.