Want Some Blue Honey?
Waste from an M&M’s factory in France has local bees making very colorful honey
PHOTO: The waste coats local bees in different colored chemicals, which then contaminate the honey. (Vincent Kessler / Reuters)
MAP: The factory releasing the pollution is located in the Alsace region in northeastern France. (Jim McMahon)
Blue and green honey may look cool, but beekeepers in northeastern France are not happy about their odd-looking new product.
Over the past few months, beekeepers in Ribeauvillé, a town located in the Alsace region, have noticed that bees there have been making honey in many strange colors. Bees have been returning to apiaries (places where beehives are kept and honey is made) with different colors coating their bodies. The colors then end up contaminating the honey.
A recent investigation revealed that a nearby M&M’s factory is behind the change in color. Waste from the factory has been exposing the bees to a number of chemicals. Some of the chemicals are used in the outer shells of the bite-size candies, which come in many bright colors.
The local beekeepers do not know if the polluted honey is dangerous to eat, but they are not taking any chances. They are throwing away the candy-colored honey, which means a big loss to local businesses.
“For me, it’s not honey,” Alain Frieh, leader of the town’s beekeepers union, tells the Reuters news agency. “It’s not sellable.”
The honey industry in this part of France has been suffering this year. According to Frieh, many bees died last winter or were unable to make honey because of the harsh weather conditions. This new problem of colored honey is hurting the beekeepers’ way of life even more.
The region is home to about 2,400 beekeepers and 35,000 colonies of bees, according to Alsace’s chamber of agriculture. The beekeepers harvest approximately 1,000 tons of honey each year, making the product a big part of the region’s economy.
Agrivalor is the company that operates the factory that processes the M&M's factory's waste. It is about 2.5 miles from Ribeauville. According to co-manager Philippe Meinrad, the company has been attempting to stop the pollution.
“We discovered the problem at the same time they did,” Meinrad tells Reuters. “We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it.”