An organic compound known as 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is formed from reducing sugars in honey and various processed foods in acidic environments when they are heated through the Maillard reaction. In addition to processing, storage conditions affect the formation HMF, and HMF has become a suitable indicator of honey quality. HMF is easily absorbed from food through the gastrointestinal tract and, upon being metabolized into different derivatives, is excreted via urine. In addition to exerting detrimental effects (mutagenic, genotoxic, organotoxic and enzyme inhibitory), HMF, which is converted to a non-excretable, genotoxic compound called 5-sulfoxymethylfurfural, is beneficial to human health by providing antioxidative, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypoxic, anti-sickling, and anti-hyperuricemic effects. Therefore, HMF is a neo-forming contaminant that draws great attention from scientists. This review compiles updated information regarding HMF formation, detection procedures, mitigation strategies and effects of HMF on honey bees and human health.