Selling Honey and Bee Products

If you sell your own honey then there are things you should know about hygiene, jar labels and so on. If you are essentially a hobbyist just selling 'from the door' then the rules are relatively relaxed but anything more and you should be aware of the need for cleanliness when extracting honey and the correct form of labels to use.

For food hygiene we recommend the one day course that leads to a Level 1 Food Hygiene Certificate - such courses are laid on by District Councils and other food industry trainers either on-line or by attendance.

For jar labels, you should be aware of the 2015 Honey (England) Regulations, an outline of which is shown below. Additionally, the relevant Statutory Instrument (SI) can be found here.

REQUIRED IN THE CONSUMER'S FIELD OF VIEW (i.e. visible on the shelf.)

1.Best Before Date

The best before date can be two years from bottling but the choice of date will depend on the honey. For example, honey sold as clear honey should not show signs of crystallization before the end date. Honey predominantly from oil seed rape would therefore have a shorter shelf life than ling or heather honey.
'Best before date' must indicate the day, month and year. However, 'best before end' can be just a month or just a month and a year. The period starts from the date of packing not the date of extraction.

2.The word 'Honey'

This can be 'Honey' or one of the other 'reserved words' as appropriate (Honey, Blossom Honey, Nectar Honey, Honeydew Honey, Comb Honey, Chunk Honey, Cut Comb in Honey, Drained Honey, Extracted Honey, Pressed Honey, Filtered Honey and Baker's Honey - see below for detail if you are uncertain).
You must use the appropriate reserved description, as listed above or detailed at the foot of this page and defined in the SI. In addition, except for Baker's and filtered honey you may describe the honey with:-
* its floral or vegetable origin, provided it comes wholly or mainly from the indicated source and possesses the related organoleptic, physio-chemical and microscopic characteristics.
* its regional, territorial, or topographical origin, provided it comes entirely from that source.
* its specific quality criteria.

In addition, somewhere on the jar, although not necessarily in the field of view, the following information must be shown:

3.The Country of Origin

If the country of origin is the UK, somewhere on the label should be the words, 'Product of the UK'. Including UK in the producer's address label fulfils this requirement if a region is included on the label, e.g. 'Norfolk Honey' in the consumer's field of view. Blended honeys from EU countries can have the words, 'Product of the EU'. Otherwise, the label must have the words, 'Product of more than one country'.

4.The Lot Number

This is a batch number which identifies a jar of honey and allows traceability back to the colony and the date of processing. Traceability depends, obviously, on the beekeeper working systematically and maintaining adequate records.
The label must also display the weight of honey in the jar. This must be displayed in the consumer's field of view and the letters must be at least equal to the minimum prescribed height for the size of jar (4mm for 454g). It goes without saying that the weight contained in the jar must be equal or greater than the weight displayed on the label. Also, the producer's name and address must be visible somewhere on the label, although not necessarily in the field of view.

What is Honey

The rules to describe honey have been tightened.

  • The maximum moisture content permitted is 20% for all honey with the exception of ling heather honey, which can have a moisture content of up to 23%.
  • The maximum permitted HMF content is 40mg/kg reduced from 80mg/kg.
  • The minimum total of fructose and glucose combined is 60%.
Products which fail to conform to the standard cannot be labelled with the word 'Honey'.

Are there any restrictions on the positioning of information on the label?

Yes. The reserved description, the durability indication (or information stating where it can be found) and the weight indication must be in the same field of vision.

What size jars can I use to pack Honey?

Honey must be prepacked for retail sale only in prescribed metric quantities. These quantities are the net content of the jar and are as follows:

  • 57g
  • 113g
  • 227g
  • 340g
  • 454g
  • 680g
  • Or multiples of 454g
The imperial equivalents may also be shown (i.e. 2oz, 4 oz, 8oz, 12oz, 1lb, 1 1/2lb and multiples of 1lb). However the metric must be more prominent (i.e. larger, in bolder print, or if in equal typeface, listed first). There is a minimum size for the weight indication, for most packs at least 4mm in height.

What quantity checks do I need to make?

Honey can be filled either to minimum quantity or to average weight . For minimum quantity each jar should contain (net) at least the declared weight. Each jar or container must be individually weighed on a scale that has been tested and approved for trade use.
For average weight , there are certain rules - The Packers Rules - which must be followed. These allow for some weights to be a limited amount below the weight shown on the jar, provided that average weight is equal to or above that weight.
For small producers one of the easiest ways to comply with these rules is to fill each jar by eye or on a scale then check (and make a record of) the weights, making sure that the weights are all at or above the weight declared. You must remember to take away the weight of the empty jar and lid (the tare weight) from the total (gross) weight to find the (net) contents weight. As the weight of glass jars can vary it is best to establish this tare weight by weighing 10 jars plus lids and then to use the weight of the heaviest.
The scale you use for these checks must be one you know to be accurate. A stamped/verified shop scale is ideal. Many domestic type kitchen scales are unsuitable because they are not sufficiently accurate and reliable.
If you find that the net weights of some of the jars are low, you will need to weigh every jar from that batch, and remove the ones that are low. You can then top up these jars and recheck them. If you need to do this you should record that you did so.
The records you make should include the time and date of weighing; the weights found, including the tare weight used; and the weight and batch or durability indication declared on the label. These records should be kept for at least a year.
The number of jars you need to check will vary according to the size of the batch. For guidance, it is usually sufficient to check 3 out of batches of 50 jars or less, 5 for batches between 50 and 100, and 7 or 8 per 100 for larger batches.

Reserved Words (in detail)

1a. blossom honey or honey obtained from the nectar of plants
1b. nectar honey
2. honeydew honey honey obtained mainly from excretions of plant sucking insects (Hemiptera) on the living part of plants or secretions of living parts of plants
3. comb honey honey stored by bees in the cells of freshly built broodless combs or thin comb foundation sheets made solely of beeswax and sold in sealed whole combs or sections of such combs
4a. chunk honey honey which contains one or more pieces of comb honey
4b. cut comb in honey
5. drained honey honey obtained by draining de-capped broodless combs
6. extracted honey honey obtained by centrifuging de-capped broodless combs

Please note:

All honey (apart from baker's honey) must not:

  • Have any foreign tastes or odours.
  • Have begun to ferment or have fermented.
  • Have been heated in such a way that the natural enzymes have been either destroyed or significantly inactivated.