Bees make blue honey by harvesting waste from M&Ms manufacturing

Beekeepers in Ribeauville, France discovered blue honey in their hives. When they investigated further, they discovered that their bees were harvesting M&Ms manufacturing waste from a biogas plant that processes the industrial runoff from a Mars chocolate factory. The blue honey will not be offered for sale. From the BBC:

The plant operator said it regretted the situation and had put in place a procedure to stop it happening again.

"We discovered the problem at the same time [the beekeepers] did. We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it," Philippe Meinrad, a spokesman from Agrivalor, the company operating the biogas plant, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The company, which deals with waste from a Mars chocolate factory, said it would clean out the containers, store all incoming waste in airtight containers and process it promptly, according to a company statement published in Le Monde newspaper.

French beekeepers in Ribeauville abuzz over blue honey (via IO9)

(Image: M&Ms, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from gcourbis's photostream)



  1. makes you wonder what non-visible manufacturing byproducts from all industries might end up in unexpected parts of the food supply on a regular basis.

    1. All of them. My personal favorite is plutonium from enrichment plants. Measured in kids teeth, reliably point out where Selafield is located

      With this wonderful quote: “Johnson claimed the levels of plutonium are so minute that there is no health risk to the public.”

      Nice to see that top officials of the ministry of health have no faintest clue what plutonium is, and that for radioactive substances with extremely long half-life times there is no such thing as a “safe level”.

      1.  Uhm yeah there is such a thing as a safe level, below background. And an extremely long half-life means that the material is not that radioactive. You’re the one without a clue, sorry.

        1. Plutonium has a half-life of 80 million years. It’s also one of the most poisonous substances known to man. It radiates alpha, beta and gamma photons at decay, decays into products that are themselves poisonous, gets metabolized extremely slowly, gets used by the body in lymph nodes and bone marrow and even if not decaying, acts as an extreme free radical.

          70 nanogram of inhaled plutonium on a given population per person leads to an expected death rate of 3 out of 10000. 1kg of plutonium would kill 4 million people.

        2. Plutonium HAS no background level, as all the plutonium on Earth is manmade.  Might have something to do with why it’s such profoundly bad news biochemically.

          1. Well now you’re falling prey to the naturalistic fallacy.  Plenty of natural things are very bad for us biochemically.

            In any case, this is all very interesting and I’d like to consult some experts on this subject.

          2. I wouldn’t call that a fallacy.  That a completely foreign ingredient added to a complex evolved chemistry is nothing save largely a destructive catalyst isn’t surprising.  I think jackbird is more right.

            *Edit: Checked on natural traces, there are some but insignificant. Not enough for it to play a substantial role in our biochemical evolution, which is I think the cogent point.

          3. No, actually, there is a background level of plutonium — admittedly, almost entirely as a decay product from other things. Plutonium doesn’t occur in mineral amounts in the Earth’s crust, but it does occur.

      2. Regarding the faintness of clues: plutonium is extremely biochemically toxic, although it’s also incredibly easy to detect, chemically. 


        The “extremely long half-life” of plutonium (or, in any event, of Pu-244, which is not the kind they make in reactors, which is Pu-239) means it is extremely benign from a radiological standpoint. It’s radioactive substances with short half-lives that are more dangerous. Period, dot, end of story. That’s what “long half-life” means–the atoms split much less often. It’s the difference between getting playfully squirted with a hose, and thrown over Niagara Falls. You could sprinkle plutonium on your breakfast cereal, for all the harm it would do you from the radiation.

        It’s precisely because there is a safe level of exposure for long-lived radioisotopes that we can live on a planet with such vastly abundant crustal uranium (half-life ~4.5 billion years).

        The moral: people who live in faint houses shouldn’t throw clues.

        1. There is no “safe level of exposure” to carcinogens. Period. Especially not carcinogens which act the way radioactive sbstances do. For every amount, no matter how small, even a single atom, you can get a statistic out of how many people, how many will die. The number may be quite small, for miniscule amounts. But do tell that to the parent who lost his child to bone-marrow cancer.

          And the longer half-life is more harmless myth. That’s quack, completely, utter quack. Yes, exposure to quickly decaying substances which irradiate a lot is more harmful right then and there. But you aren’t gonna give thousands of children bone marrow cancer if those make it into the environment, because they decay quickly. But if you unleash something into the environment that keeps irradiating for practically ever, that’s the problem. And it doesn’t take a whole lot of plutonium to elevate the probability of cancer to one 1:1000 (in the nanogram region per person). It may not be as bad as smoking your entire life, but it’s not far off, and that’s a “one time shot”.

          4 tons of plutonium inhaled, would be enough to wipe out the entire human population within a couple years, with room to spare. And that’s a very conservative estimate. Other sources think it could be as little as 1kg but that’s disputed.

  2. “We discovered the problem at the same time [the beekeepers] did.”

    Sounds like corporate-speak for “They caught us with our pants down”.

    1.  Well, it was to be expected after the epidemics of chocolate flavored honey, followed closely by caramel honey, coconut honey, mocha honey…

  3. I think we have to consider the possibility that the bees were just making a more potent, chemically pure form of honey that sugar-addicted humans will pay a premium for. Keep an ear out for rumors of a shadowy figure known as “Heisenbee.”

  4. see, the problem was that this happened in France and not in America.  This would have been hailed here as the greatest invention of the modern era.

  5. The negligent company needs obliged to pay back the fair market price of the honey stock they ruined.  Maybe they can’t pay it all up front, but regardless that’s a debt they appropriately owe those beekeepers.

      1. Admittedly I don’t follow you.  What about which workers?  The plant staff, the beekeepers, or the worker bees?  And what about them in what regards?

    1. Negligent?  

      Apparently you know a lot more about the case than I do.  Apparently you know that the waste-processing biogas plant knew darn tooting well that they should seal this particular type of waste from exposure to outside air.  Apparently you have, or know of, evidence that standard practices and/or regulations were ignored and this outcome was foreseeable.

        1. We all need defending from those who rush to judgement half cocked.

          It’s one thing to question the handling of the sweet waste (though what better fuel for a biogas plant?), but quite another to throw around words such as “negligent”.

      1. There was raw material escaping from their plant. It seems quite likely that there was some lapse in due diligence.

        1. It was sugary water in unsealed containers out in the yard of the biogas plant waiting for processing. It wasn’t “raw material escaping” by any normal definition.

          1. Since you’ve accused me of being half-cocked soap, I’ll be thorough:

            Can you provide a link to where you found this reference?  The additional chemical compounds stored in that just “sugary-water” would be interesting to read their Material Safety Data Sheets.  If it’s an unknown phenomenon caused by a material in those vats that wasn’t previously documented as affecting bees in that manner, that’d need to be noted at all other locations where that chemical compound can be found.  

            But, that’d be the case of it here.  Since this particular case was in France, I can’t speak to what their safety protocols are like.  

            For what its worth though, I’m a HUGE fan of the biogas power plant use of materials.  That’s an environmentally friendly, good thing and I’m glad to see industry using that.  It’s just that in this one case it sounds like a few employees should have not gotten lazy and just left the lids on the barrels until they were ready to use them.  

            I’m guessing it was something likely that simple too since “The problem has already been addressed”.  It must have been something basic if they could implement the solution immediately like that.  Hopefully lesson learned.  

            Still, the beekeepers are deserving of damages inflicted on them by the biogas company.  They were not a party to the conditions that caused their honey to be polluted; those who did the polluting reasonably aught to be accountable for those damages.  Accordingly, they owe them damages.  Do we have common ground on that soap?

          2. That sugary water is the plant’s raw material.  It was in unsealed containers, and escaping into the bees.  It follows that it was “raw material escaping” by any possible definition, except perhaps the definition of the PR department.

      2. It’s hardly a rash judgement to call a mistake that has clearly contaminated wildlife as being anything less than negligent.  It’s either negligent or willful.  I’m not saying they’re evil, I’m not saying they’re some vile dastardly corporation, its just that clearly at some point in their process chain there were individuals who failed in their responsibility to assure their waste products were adequately contained.  If that’s not negligence, than I don’t know what is.  

        Also, soap, are you saying the company should just tell the beekeepers “Tough luck”?

  6. Wait, so you are saying bees are attracted to sweet sugary foods….so:

    1. Grow corn.
    2. Turn into HFCS.
    3. Feed to bees.
    4. Honey.
    5. Profit.

    Actually I think that’s how it already works in a lot of places.  Obviously we need more honey subsidies.

    1. Honey already typically has the same fructose / glucose ratio as HFCS 55.  I’m curious what using it as a “feedstock” for honey would do.

  7. In other news, bees discover a way to thrive while others of their kind are dying off and eliminate industrial waste in the process. 

    When asked for comment a human on the scene promised, “We must put a stop to this!”

  8. Blue M&M’s are an abomination. Every other is a fall color. the blue just doesn’t belong, and there is a reason they didn’t exist for many years.

    1. Well it was a choice between blue, fuchsia, and a slightly different shade of fuchsia and they put it up to a vote.  That’s more choice than we USians get when we vote for the supreme commander of our armed forces.

  9. Er, the stuff is not classifiable as Honey according to the beekeepers. It can’t be sold and has to be disposed of. And it has an extremely bland taste.

    it is not honey. The only folks calling it so are news writers, and they are wrong.

  10. Something similar happened a couple years ago in Brooklyn when a colony of honey bees hit a maraschino cherry factory and started making red honey.

    1.  LinkMan,

      DRAT you beat me to it.

      Apparently, it also made the BEES THEMSELVES a demonic red.  And the  honey did NOT taste cherry-flavored but rather like cough syrup.

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