The Kassensturz programme, which aired on German-language SRF on Tuesday night, said that small pieces of plastic were found in 20 different brands of honey tested.
“Honey has a reputation for being a natural product,” Professor Gerhard Liebezeit, a chemist, told the programme.
“The finding of plastic shows we have burdened a natural product with man-made substances.”
The chemist uncovered the plastic by liquefying the honey at 70 degrees and then passing through a filter, where the tiny particles of plastic were left behind.
Most of the honey tested originated from Switzerland.
Liebzeit said there were three different forms of “micro-plastic”, including clothing fibres, fragments of sheet plastic and granular material coming from cosmetics and toothpaste.
Especially problematic are cosmetics containing microscopic plastic beads which pass through the wastewater treatment process in the environment.
The plastic is deposited in pollen and then passes into the honey produced by bees.
The programme talked to Richard Wyss, a beekeepers’ association representative, who acknowledged that hives themselves may be a source of some of the plastic found in the honey.
Some hives contain plastic such as styrofoam, used as insulation to protect against the cold, Wyss said.
Michael Beer, head of the federal office for food safety, told Kassensturz the plastic does not pose a health risk for consumers, calling the concentrations “minimal”.
He noted such concentrations could be found in other food.
But Hans-Petter Hutter, a scientist from the University of Vienna who has studied plastic in the environment, said the health risks cannot be easily dismissed.
There is not enough data to determine conclusively “but to say that these small amounts would be no danger is not credible”.