2012 Honey Monitoring Program Results Summary

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs (OMAF and MRA) conduct a Honey Monitoring Program each year to monitor compliance of Ontario produced honey under Ontario Regulation (O. Reg.) 119/11, Produce, Honey and Maple Products of the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001.

In 2012, OMAF and MRA collected 150 honey samples, from 139 different honey operations in Ontario. All samples were produced during the 2012 season and were randomly collected from retail and farm gate locations across the province.

For all samples:

  • lab analysis was conducted for lead and drug residues
  • labels were reviewed to determine compliance with labelling requirements
  • per cent moisture was measured to determine the honey grade
  • Pfund was measured to determine the colour classification

Drug and Lead Analysis

All 150 samples were analysed for the presence of:

  • lead
  • chloramphenicol
  • tylosin
  • eight different sulfonamides
  • three different tetracyclines

Levels detected were compared to the allowable limits set by either Health Canada or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Of the 150 samples tested, 143 samples (95 per cent) were compliant with the allowable limits. Three samples (2 per cent) had lead levels above the allowable level, and one sample (0.6 per cent) had two sulfonamides above the allowable level. A summary of the laboratory results is provided in Table 1.

When lead or drug levels exceeded the allowable limit, the producer and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) were immediately notified. The CFIA is responsible for conducting risk assessments of the products, and determining if a recall is required. No public recalls were issued as a result of this sampling. OMAF and MRA responded by conducting additional sampling, conducting on-site visits, and/or providing education and information to the producer to prevent recurrence.

Table 1: Summary of 2012 Laboratory Results

Samples with level above allowable limit

1 - Sulfadiazine, Sulfadimethoxine, Sulfadoxine, Sulfamerazine, Sulfamethazine, Sulfamethoxazole, Sulfanilamide, Sulfaquinoxaline.

2 - Tetracycline, Oxytetracycline, Chlortetracycline.

Label Review

OMAF and MRA reviewed product labels to determine if they met labelling requirements set out in Ontario Regulation 119/11. Refer to the Infosheet "Label Requirements for Honey Products in Ontario" for a summary of label requirements, or www.ontario.ca/producesafety for more information.

As part of the 2012 program, all 150 product labels were reviewed. This included 108 samples collected from retail locations and 42 samples collected from farm gate locations. Of the 150 labels reviewed, 106 (71 per cent) included all of the label requirements. A summary of label review is provided in Table 2.

Honey producers with missing label information were notified by mail.

Table 2: Summary of the Missing Label Information

Label Information Retail Farm Gate
# % # %
All requirements present
"Honey" missing
Net weight missing
Not Required
Grade missing
Not Required
Colour missing
Not Required
Name or complete address missing

Grade and Colour Analysis

O. Reg. 119/11 requires that honey sold at retail be labelled with the grade and colour class. All 150 samples were assessed to determine if they were labelled with the correct grade and colour class.

Grade is determined by a number of factors, including moisture levels. Of the 108 samples collected at retail, 43 (40 per cent) were missing the grade, or were labelled with an incorrect grade name.

Of the 108 samples collected at retail, 40 samples (37 per cent) were labelled with the correct colour.

Producers selling from retail with missing or incorrect grade or colour class on the label were notified by mail.

Grade and colour class are not required to be on the label for honey sold directly from farm gate provided that the label indicate:

  • the name and full address of the producer, and
  • the words "honey/miel" or "comb honey/miel en rayon" as applicable.

A full address means sufficient information to identify the exact location of the relevant person's premises, such as a municipal address or property identification number, including a postal code.

Producers may choose to include the grade and colour class on their label of honey sold at farm gate. If included, this information must be correct.

Producers selling from farm gate were notified by mail if their honey was labelled with an incorrect grade or colour class.

Chemical Residues

Thirty randomly selected samples were tested for the chemicals fluvalinate, coumaphos and amitraz. Levels detected were compared to the allowable levels set by Health Canada. Of the 30 samples tested, none were found to contain detectable levels of these chemicals.

Progressive Compliance

OMAF and MRA take a progressive compliance approach when dealing with regulatory non-compliance. The first stage is education and advice. For instances of continuing non-compliance, other tools may be used such as compliance orders, detention or seizure of product and as a last resort, court orders.


This document is provided for information purposes only. Please refer to the regulation for complete requirements. O. Reg. 119/11 can be found at www.e-laws.gov.on.ca.

For more information on OMAF and MRA's Honey Monitoring Program please refer to the Infosheet Honey Monitoring Program or go to www.ontario.ca/producesafety for more information.

Results from this program are not statistically valid and cannot be used to make generalizations about the state of industry.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAF and MRA Staff
Creation Date: Unknown
Last Reviewed: 17 June 2014