OMAFRA's Honey Monitoring Program & Results

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) administers an annual Honey Monitoring Program to assess whether samples of Ontario honey meet requirements under Ontario Regulation 119/11 - Produce, Honey and Maple Products (O. Reg. 119/11).

Any person who packs, transports or sells honey that is packed in a non-federally registered or licenced establishment in Ontario must ensure the honey is in compliance with the requirements under O. Reg. 119/11.

This information sheet describes how OMAFRA collects and assesses honey samples for compliance with these requirements; and includes an aggregate summary of the of the results from this program over the past five years.

For information about the regulatory requirements for honey, please refer to the information sheet entitled "Grade, Container and Label Requirements for Honey in Ontario" and to O. Reg. 119/11.

Sample Collection

Samples of Ontario honey are collected by OMAFRA inspectors who are appointed under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001. Samples are randomly collected from points of sale across the province; including retail stores, roadside stands, farmers' markets and farm gate. Samples undergo laboratory analysis as well as container and label review to determine whether they meet requirements set out in O. Reg. 119/11.

Container and Label Review

After a honey sample is collected, an OMAFRA inspector reviews the label and the sample container to assess whether they meet container size, container characteristics, and label requirements.

Farm gate honey (honey sold directly to the consumer from the producer's place of residence), comb honey, and honey in containers of 150 grams or less have different labelling requirements. OMAFRA inspectors take the retail location, container size, and type of honey into consideration when determining whether the container and label are compliant with O. Reg. 119/11.

Lead and Chemical Analysis

O. Reg. 119/11 prohibits the sale, transportation or packaging of honey that is contaminated. All samples are analyzed by the University of Guelph's Agriculture and Food Laboratory for the presence of:

  • lead
  • sulfonamides (15 types)
  • tetracycline
  • oxytetracycline
  • chlortetracycline
  • lincomycin
  • tylosin
  • penicillin
  • erythromycin
  • chloramphenicol
  • fumagillin

Levels detected are compared to the maximum allowable levels and guidelines set by Health Canada. Samples with levels that exceed these limits are considered non-compliant with O. Reg. 119/11.

Grade and Colour Classification

Honey must be assigned a grade and colour class that is in accordance with O. Reg. 119/11. This requirement does not apply to comb honey, farm gate honey or honey packed in containers that are less than 150 grams.

All samples are tested by the University of Guelph Agriculture and Food Laboratory for moisture content. To help determine compliance with grade requirements, the moisture level of the honey sample is measured and then compared to the maximum moisture level for the grade indicated on the label.

All samples are tested by the University of Guelph Agriculture and Food Laboratory using a Pfund Honey Grader to determine the colour classification. The Pfund reading is then compared to the colour classification on the label to determine whether the sample meets the regulatory requirements for colour classification.

Receiving Results

All producers receive a letter detailing the test results for their honey sample.

Compliance Action

If container, grade, colour, or labelling requirements are not met, OMAFRA takes progressive steps to bring these products into compliance. The first progressive stage usually involves providing education and advice to the producer. If voluntary compliance is not achieved, additional compliance action is taken which may include verbal or written warnings, compliance orders, product detention, seizure, or fines/tickets under the Provincial Offences Act.

When lead or chemicals are detected above Health Canada's allowable level or guidelines, the producer and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are immediately notified. Arrangements are made for an OMAFRA inspector to follow-up with the producer to help identify causes of the contamination and suggest corrective action. Compliance action could include the collection of additional samples, product detention, disposal and/or recall.

Additional Resources

Additional information on regulatory requirements for honey are available on the information page entitled "Grade, Container and Label Requirements for Honey in Ontario" or the labelling brochure entitled "Label Requirements for Honey in Ontario".

Honey Monitoring Program Results

The following tables provide an aggregate summary of the results from OMAFRA's Honey Monitoring Program from 2016 to 2020. Please note that the results from this program are not statistically viable and cannot be used to generalize the state of the honey industry.

Table 1. Samples collected for OMAFRA's Honey Monitoring Program

Year Total number of samples collected Number of samples collected from retail Number of samples collected from farm gate
2020 50 6 44
2019 100 7 93
2018 150 113 37
2017 150 88 62
2016 150 101 49

Honey Label Reviews 2016-2020

Table 2. Summary of retail honey label requirements

Label Information 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
Number of labels reviewed 6 7 113 88 101
All requirements present* 2 2 66 49 60
'Honey' missing 1 0 2 4 5
Net weight missing 2 0 11 10 9
Grade missing 3 2 18 19 20
Colour missing 4 2 19 21 23
Name or complete addressing missing 4 1 3 35 25

Table 3. Summary of farm gate honey label requirements

Label Information 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
Number of labels reviewed 42 91 37 62 49
All requirements present* 24 35 24 33 36
'Honey' missing 6 8 1 7 3
Name or complete addressing missing 18 30 3 18 13

Lead and Chemical Analysis 2016-2020

Table 4. Number of samples with lead or chemical residues over the allowable levels

Analyte 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
Lead (Alertable level is 0.2 parts per million) 0 0 1 5 2
Sulfonamides (8 types in 2014-2016, 15 types in 2017-2018) 0 0 0 0 0
Tetracycline (Alertable level is 0.075 parts per million) 0 0 0 0 0
Oxytetracycline 0 0 0 0 0
Chlortetracycline 0 0 0 0 0
Lincomycin 0 0 0 0 N/A
Tylosin 0 0 0 0 0
Penicillin 0 0 0 0 N/A
Erythromycin 0 0 0 0 N/A
Chloramphenicol 0 0 0 0 0
Fumagillin 0 0 0 0 N/A

Grade and colour classification 2016-2020

Table 5. Retail honey labels reviewed for grade and colour classification

Label Information 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
Number of samples collected 6 7 113 88 101
Number labelled with the correct** grade name 2 4 63 34 62
Number labelled with the correct colour class 1 1 43 29 38

** Moisture level was the grade requirement measured when determining whether the grade on the label was correct. Additional grade requirements are described in Table 2 of O. Reg. 119/11.

Grade and colour classification are not required on labels for farm gate honey; but if they are included on the label then they must be correct.

For additional information about OMAFRA's Honey Monitoring Program or to obtain results from prior to 2016, please contact the Food Safety Inspection Delivery Branch at fpo.omafra@ontario.ca or call 1-877-424-1300.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca