Honey Monitoring Program

This infosheet describes the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Rural Affairs' Honey Monitoring Program and the regulatory requirements being assessed.

Ontario Regulation 119/11 (O. Reg. 119/11) under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 helps reduce food safety risks to Ontario consumers. The Honey Monitoring Program is a tool used to assess compliance with the regulation.

As part of the program, samples of honey produced in Ontario are randomly collected from points of sale across the province. These samples are analyzed for:

  • colour class
  • moisture level
  • drug and lead residues

In addition to laboratory analysis of the honey, product containers and labels are reviewed to determine if the required packaging and labelling criteria are met.

Regulatory Requirements

Colour class and grading requirements as well as packaging and labelling criteria for honey are set out in O. Reg. 119/11. The regulation requires that accurate information be provided to buyers of honey and promotes fair trading practices.

O. Reg. 119/11 does not apply to honey sold by a producer directly to a consumer at the producer's place of residence if the honey was produced in the producer's apiary and the container is labelled with the producer's name and full address and the words "honey/miel" or "comb honey/miel en rayon" as appropriate.

Colour Classification

Except for comb honey, the colour class must appear on the label of a honey container offered for sale, sold or transported to a consumer or retail outlet.

Colour class can be determined with a honey classifier or a Pfund honey grader. Table 1 describes the different colour classes for honey packed in consumer containers or bulk containers sold or transported directly to a consumer or retail outlet and the characteristics of each class.

Colour classification for samples collected as part of the program is determined at the University of Guelph laboratory using a Hanna C221 Honey Colour Analyzer.

Lab results are compared with the colour class indicated on the honey container label. The producer is notified by mail if the colour determined by the lab does not match the colour indicated on the label.

Table 1. Colour Classes for Honey
Colour Class
Designation on a Honey Classifier
Reading on Pfund Honey Grader
Not darker than White
Not more than 30 millimetres
Darker than White but not darker than Golden
More than 30 millimetres but not more than 50 millimetres
Darker than Golden but not darker than Amber
More than 50 millimetres but not more than 85 millimetres
Darker than Amber
More than 85 millimetres


The grade must appear on the label of a honey container offered for sale, sold or transported directly to a consumer or a retail outlet. O. Reg. 119/11 contains three grade standards for honey:

  • "Ontario No. 1"
  • "Ontario No. 2"
  • "Ontario No. 3"

These standards are based on the equivalent federal "Canada" numerical grade standards.

Ontario grade standards must be used by non-federally registered packers. Only federally registered packers can use the federal "Canada" grade standards and names.

For the purpose of the Honey Monitoring Program, per cent moisture is the only grade criteria measured.

Table 2 provides moisture requirements for the different grades. However, grade may also be influenced by other factors, including:

  • whether honey is free from foreign material that would be stopped by a screen with a sieve opening that corresponds with the grade
  • flavour characteristics
  • texture (i.e., severity and stage of granulation and crystallization)
  • per cent water insoluble solids

Per cent moisture is measured by the laboratory. To determine compliance the moisture level of the honey sample is compared to the moisture requirements for the grade indicated on the honey label.

Table 2. Grades and Corresponding Moisture Levels
Moisture Level
Unpasteurized Honey
Pasteurized Honey
Ontario No. 1
Not more than 17.8 per cent
Not more than 18.6 per cent
Ontario No. 2
Not more than 18.6 per cent
Not more that 20 per cent
Ontario No. 3
Not more than 20 per cent
Not more than 20 per cent

For detailed grade information refer to Table 2 - Grades for Honey in O. Reg. 119/11.

Laboratory Analysis

All honey samples collected are analysed at the laboratory for the presence of:

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

A selected number of samples are also tested for:

  • fluvalinate
  • coumaphos
  • amitraz

Levels detected are compared to the maximum allowable levels set by Health Canada under the Pest Control Products Act. The complete list of maximum allowable levels under the Pest Control Products Act can be found at www.laws.justice.gc.ca.

If a chemical is detected above the allowable level, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is notified and may take follow-up action, including possible resampling, product detention and/or disposal or recall.

Labelling Requirements

Honey labels on samples collected are reviewed by Ministry staff to determine if they meet the labelling requirements outlined in O. Reg. 119/11. Every container of honey with a capacity of more than 150 grams that is offered for sale, sold or transported must have a label with the following information:

  • the name and full address of the packer or the person for whom the honey was packed (retailer, producer or other person)
  • the word "honey/miel" or, where applicable, "comb honey/miel en rayon"
  • notice that comb honey contains cells of pollen if applicable
  • if the honey is brought into Ontario in bulk for packaging and sale within Ontario (including blending with Ontario honey), then country or province of origin is required
  • except for comb honey, the grade immediately followed by the colour class when the honey is packed in consumer containers or bulk containers offered for sale, sold or transported directly to a consumer or a retail outlet
  • net weight

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.

For containers of honey with a capacity of 150 grams or less, the grade, colour class and net weight of the honey are not required on the label. Containers with a capacity of 150 grams or less are not typically collected as part of the Honey Monitoring Program.

For more information on labelling honey, refer to the infosheet "Label Requirements for Honey in Ontario" or O. Reg. 119/11.

Consumer Containers

Samples collected in consumer containers are reviewed to ensure compliance with container size requirements. Consumer container sizes are the same as those in the federal Honey Regulations under the Canada Agricultural Products Act and include the 330-gram container. Consumer container sizes do not apply to comb honey. The container size lists the permitted consumer container sizes for honey.

  • Container Size (any size up to and including 150 grams)
    • 250 grams
    • 330 grams
    • 375 grams
    • 500 grams
    • 750 grams
    • 1 kilogram
    • 1.5 kilograms
    • 2 kilograms
    • 3 kilograms
    • 5 kilograms

A container with a weight capacity of more than five kilograms of honey is considered a bulk container.

Bulk containers are not collected for the Honey Monitoring Program.

Consumer containers must be new, clean, sound and closed securely.

Compliance and Violation

The Ministry takes a proactive approach to compliance based on prevention. The first stage is education and advice. If education and advice fail to bring about voluntary correction, additional steps may be needed. Progressive compliance steps may include verbal or written warnings, compliance orders with specific instructions, product detention or seizure.

Additional Information

For additional information on the Honey Monitoring Program, including results summaries, yearly program descriptions and information on how to obtain your lab results, please visit the Foods of Plant Origin website at: www.ontario.ca/producesafety.


This document is provided for information purposes only. Please refer to the legislation for copmlete requirements.

O. Reg. 119/11 can be found at www.ontario.ca/laws.

The Pest Control Products Act and the Canada Agricultural Products Act can be found at www.laws.justice.gc.ca.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 18 February 2014
Last Reviewed: 8 June 2015