Honey can be contaminated at various points during production and packaging, and viable bacteria are commonly detectable in honey at the point of sale. Commercial production of honey involves blending honeys obtained from multiple sources, often located in more than one nation. During blending, honey is heated to decrease viscosity, thereby easing filtration. In comparison, locally produced honey is typically made in small scale, and subjected to less processing during packaging. Given these differences, we hypothesized that commercially blended honey—products containing honey from multiple countries—would contain fewer bacteria per gram compared to locally produced honey. This study compares both the quantity and diversity of bacteria present in locally produced honey with commercially blended honey. Plate count assays were used to determine the quantity of bacteria present in commercial (n = 13) and locally produced (n = 19) honey samples. Identification of bacteria cultured from two representative samples was accomplished using 16S rDNA sequencing. Significantly higher numbers of bacteria were detectable in the locally produced honey samples in comparison to the commercial samples when cultured both aerobically and anaerobically (means: 1,210 CFU/g vs. 400 CFU/g; p<0.001 and 286 CFU/g vs. 130 CFU/g; p< 0.001, respectively). 16S rDNA sequencing indicated the presence of at least five unique species in the locally produced sample and eight unique species in the blended sample. These results support the hypothesis that, overall, locally produced honeys harbor a significantly higher bacterial content in comparison to commercially blended honey.
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