Raw, Natural and Pure are words often applied to honey but do they have any meaning?

Do these adjectives have any meaning or are just useful to make a product look attractive.


The descriptions Raw, Natural and Pure may be added to the label but, with the exception of Raw in the USA, there is not a clear legal definition of what these words mean.

Raw honey may be to consumers the least attractive term although it is the one which best describes honey as it came from the hive with minimal processing.

Raw Honey

“Raw” is the closest to the honey we take from the hive.  In fact comb honey is the most natural – easy to fall into the terminology – honey of all.

For liquid raw honey there are definitions available and Utah Agricultural Code 4-5-20 even provides provides a definition of raw honey:

  1. [Honey] as: it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling, or straining*;
  2. That is minimally processed; and
  3. That is not pasteurized
    *Straining is a process of removing particulates from honey with a metal or fabric screen or cloth. The mesh must be large enough to allow pollen, enzymes and minerals through.

But, in marketing terms Raw can suggest ‘underdone’.  What do you think?

Natural Honey

A quick web search suggests that Natural and Raw are synonymous.  There is no legal definition I could find.  Of course honey is either honey, in all its forms, or it isn’t.  Who would buy a product called unnatural honey?

Pure Honey

Who would buy impure honey?

Again, a web search leads us back to Raw honey.

Pollen in Honey

On 6 September 2011, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled in the Bablok case that “pollen in honey is considered to be an ingredient within the meaning of Directive 2000/13/EC on the labelling, presentation, and advertising of foodstuffs”. This ruling provided a departure from the past in that it formally established a labelling requirement for pollen. In addition, it set additional supervision and authorisation requirements for various stakeholders in the honey value chain.

One year later, on 21 September 2012, the European Commission proposed a clarification of the Directive, suggesting that the status of pollen in honey be changed (back) to being a natural constituent of honey.  If you wish you Read the full 66 pages of the Draft Impact Assessment here.

Differentiating ‘commercial’ honey from small scale production

Large scale commercial marketers of honey, need to put a consistent product on the shelf and, with some specialist exceptions, their honey will be blended from multiple sources – look at the labelling, it will probably read ‘a blend of EU and non-EU honey’.  It will also have been ‘filtered’ to remove all or most of the fine particles, pollen grains, air bubbles or other materials normally found in suspension in honey. Finally much, but not all, mass produced honey will have been pasteurised, however Rowse make a point on their website that their honey is not pasteurised (I haven’t done a full review of other honey marketers).  Heat treatment or pasteurisation preserves liquidity and destroys pathogens but heat treatment diminishes enzyme levels.

The bottom line is that the end result is still honey and can be labelled as Pure or Natural – but not Raw.  Again, doing research, I notice that Gales market some product as ‘Original Honey’ – obviously anything goes.

What is honey

If you want a full definition of honey have a look at page 9 onwards of the The Honey (England) Regulations 2015.