Few things on earth are more pure than natural honey or real old-fashioned cane syrup. Unless, of course, you ask the government.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new labeling guidelines that require regulated makers of honey and syrup to included the words “Added Sugar,” even though most producers of honey and syrup do not add sugar to their products. The rules also impact maple syrup, fruit juice and a variety of other natural products.
And yes, in case you were wondering, even bags of sugar must add the label “Added Sugar.”
According to the government, the words “Added Sugar” do not really mean that sugar has been added. The FDA says the words mean that a product “adds sugar” to a normal diet. Whether consumers will automatically come to the government’s conclusion that a label on a product refers to their own diet and not the product is another matter.
The FDA, by the way, is the agency charged by law with making sure that labels on food products are accurate. Federal law also allows the agency to determine for itself what constitutes food. It regulates ice, for example.
In fairness, the agency does product American consumers from tainted foods and medicines. It also watches over and inspects food products coming into the United States from foreign countries.
Cane syrup and honey are produced all around Two Egg, Florida. The annual Robert E. Long Cane Syrup Day is Two Egg’s largest annual event, drawing thousands of visitors to the community on the first Saturday in December of each year. (Please see the bottom of this page for a video visit to this great annual event).
Cane syrup is made by pressing the juice from stalks of sugar cane, a process that is commonly called “cane grinding.” The juice is then cooked down until it thickens into cane syrup. Cane grindings are a part of our history and culture and have taken place in Florida, Georgia and Alabama since at least the 1700s. In the past – and sometimes still in the present – these events provided an opportunity for relatives and neighbors to gather and enjoy fellowship and fun while making the next year’s syrup supply.
For those who love it and grew up on it, there is nothing like the taste of pure cane syrup.
The same is true of natural honey. There aren’t as many tupelo swamps as there used to be, but tupelo honey put Wewahitchka on the map. The highly-regarded movie Ulee’s Gold was set in Wewa and introduced the world to the special tupelo honey that is produced on the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers. The Lanier family of L.L.Lanier & Son’s Tupelo Honey advised the movie producers who wanted to make sure that their portrayal of a tupelo honey maker’s work was accurate.
Natural honey contains only one ingredient, honey, and natural cane syrup contains only cane syrup. The FDA agrees with this and even specifies that bottles of the two foods only have to list honey and cane syrup as their ingredients. This does not, however, excuse producers of honey and cane syrup from placing an “Added Sugar” label on their products – even though the products include no added sugar.
The only exception to the rule is for producers who do not sell their products across state lines. If a honey-maker or syrup-maker sells across state lines – even by filling orders that are shipped to other places – they must add the label. To help them better explain to the public that “Added Sugar” doesn’t mean “added sugar,” however, the FDA will allow producers to add a footnote clarifying that no sugar has been added.
If you would like to see what the annual Robert E. Long Cane Syrup Day is all about or learn more about tupelo honey in a great video from our friends at WFSU, please enjoy the videos below. One even let’s you listen to the song “Tupelo Honey.”