2014 Honey Monitoring Program Results Summary

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

In 2014, Ministry Inspectors collected 145 honey samples from 141 different honey operations in Ontario. All samples were produced during the 2014 season. Samples were randomly collected from retail and farm gate
locations across the province.

Drug and Lead Analysis

All 145 samples were analysed for the presence of:

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

When levels are detected of this substance, they are compared to the allowable limits set by either Health Canada or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Of the 145 samples tested, 144 samples were compliant with the allowable limits. One sample had lead levels 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 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 in 2014 as a result of this sampling.
The Ministry responds by conducting additional sampling, on-site visits, and providing education and information to the producer to prevent recurrence.

Table 1: Summary of 2014 Laboratory Results

Samples with level above allowable limit
Sulfonamides 1

1 - Sulfadiazine, Sulfadimethoxine, Sulfadoxine, Sulfamerazine, Sulfamethazine, Sulfamethoxazole, Sulfanilamide, Sulfaquinoxaline
2 - Tetracycline, Oxytetracycline, Chlortetracycline

Label Review

O. Reg. 119/11 has different labelling requirements for honey sold at retail and honey sold directly from farm gate. 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.

Ministry staff reviewed product labels to determine compliance with label requirements under O. Reg. 119/11.

In addition, all samples were analyzed for:

  • lead and drug residues
  • per cent moisture (to determine the honey grade)
  • Pfund (to determine the colour classification)

If labelling requirements are not met, the Ministry first sends letters and education material to producers. Additional compliance measures may be used in cases of repeat non-compliance.

As part of the 2014 program, 145 product labels were reviewed. This included 101 samples collected from retail locations and 44 samples collected from farm gate.

A summary of the label review, broken down by collection location, is provided in Table 2.

Table 2: Summary of the Missing Label Information

Label Information Retail Farm Gate
# % # %
Number of labels reviewed
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 - Retail Samples

O. Reg. 119/11 requires that honey sold at retail be labelled with the grade and colour class. All 101 retail samples had labels and were assessed to determine if the label contained the correct grade and colour class.

Grade Name

Grade is determined by a number of factors, one of these being moisture level. Moisture level and label review was used to determine, that of the 101 samples collected at retail, 66 were missing the grade or were labelled with an incorrect grade name.

Colour Classification

Pfund measurements were used to determine that of the 101 samples collected at retail, 30 samples were labelled with the correct colour.

Producers with non-compliant grade names or incorrect colour indicated on their labels were sent letters and educational materials. In cases of repeat non-compliance, additional compliance tools may be used.

Grade and Colour Analysis - Farm Gate Samples

Grade and colour class are not required by O. Reg. 119/11 to be on the label for honey that is sold directly from farm gate. Producers may choose to include this information. If included, the 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.

Progressive Compliance

The Ministry takes 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 OMAFRA's Honey Monitoring Program please refer to the Infosheet, "Honey Monitoring Program" or go to www.ontario.ca/producesafety

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
Local: (519) 826-4047
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Firstname SPACE Lastname SPACE HYPHEN SPACE Title/Affiliation
(eg. John Doe - Crop Specialist/University of Guelph)
Use a SEMI COLON to separate multiple entries:
(eg. John Doe - Crop Specialist/University of Guelph; Jane Doe - Crop Specialist/OMAFRA)
Creation Date: dd SPACE fullmonth SPACE yyyy
Last Reviewed: dd SPACE fullmonth SPACE yyyy