Monday, March 19, 2012

Is honey a plant derived ingredient???

This issue seems to crop up with some regularity in the world of 'natural' cosmetics. Indeed it has even been claimed that as bees work on plants, then honey must be plant derived. This was a stance I raised with the Advertising Standards Authority and whilst I was unsuccessful in my complaint, it has certainly highlighted the green washing which can occur by companies claiming to be natural. This particular company was claiming to be 99% plant based- but felt it did not need to count the water as an ingredient, even though it would be at least 70% of the formula. The full advertising standard complaint is available here (11/703)

The respondents to my complaint stated "On the website which was set up with the financial support of the European Union, it is stated that the basic components of honey are 'purely plant-derived'. The website also states that if the commercial labelling of honey indicates a specific plant (e.g. manuka honey or pohutakawa honey in a New Zealand context) it must be provable that a minimum of 50% of the source nectar stems from this plant. We are therefore of the opinion that it is not misleading to describe honey as plant based as it does originate as nectar. In any event, the honey in our formulation is at a level well under 1%." 

However, if this line of reasoning was taken further then it can be said that milk and indeed meat is plant derived as the animal makes it from grass! The UK Vegan Society, who certify all our products, have a very clear stance on the use of honey, beeswax etc. The full details are available here.

Honey, and other bee products such as beeswax, propolis and royal jelly, are animal products and therefore vegans do not consume or use them.  In common with other animals kept to produce food products bees are farmed and manipulated, and the honey they produce for themselves is taken from them.  Vegans do not eat products taken from any animal, including bees, because it is neither desirable nor necessary to exploit animals in order to obtain food for humans.
To produce honey, worker bees drink nectar from flowers and store it in their honey stomach, where the nectar is mixed with secretions from two glands (including the salivary gland) which will transform the nectar into honey.  On returning to the hive the worker bee transfers the nectar to a ‘house’ bee who drinks the nectar, and may regurgitate and re-drink it several times to mix more secretions with the nectar and may pass it on to another bee to do the same, and then places it in the honeycomb. Each worker bee will produce 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
The queen bee is usually killed every year and a new queen introduced to the colony.  The queen may have her wings clipped to prevent her from flying; this is to stop the bees carrying out their natural instinct to swarm (the old queen and a large proportion of the bees leaving the nest once the colony has provided a new queen to replace her).

The purpose of this comment is to not take a dig at the honey industry per se, however for various reasons we choose to avoid it in all our  products and follow strict standards to ensure we comply with the Vegan and Cruelty Free standards. The best thing for discerning consumers is to read labels not marketing claims, check for independent certifications such as the Vegan Society.

Food for thought???
By the way on a personal note any product I have ever used with honey has caused me to come out in a rash-even at the low % used in most skin care of <1%