Cottage Food Operation Information

August 13, 2019
Jaime Garza, County of San Diego | Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures Apiary/Agricultural Standards Inspector

Dear Beekeeper, 

Please find some helpful links that explain the following information on Cottage Food Operations which allows individuals to prepare and/or package certain non-potentially hazardous foods in private-home kitchens referred to as "cottage food operations" (CFOs): 

 *Honey label has specific requirements in the California Food & Ag Code as well. 

All honey containers must have the following labeling:  

  1. Identity: common product name “Honey” you can also choose to include floral or blossom source of honey in addition to product name Honey

  2. Responsibility: name and address of producer or distributor

  3. Quantity: Net weight of honey should be in pounds or ounces AND grams and follow standard honey container weights found in FAC 29502

  4. US Grade: see USDA Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey manual TABLE IV and TABLE V

  5. Color: only if honey is packed in opaque container – see USDA Grades of Extracted Honey manual TABLE I – color designations 

 Here are some helpful links to help you better understand honey labeling: 

California Food & Agricultural Code FAC 29611 (Honey container labeling)  

California Food & Agricultural Code FA 29502 (Standard honey container weight)

National Honey Board honey labeling information

USDA Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey Manual 

Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Jaime Garza, County of San Diego | Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures | Apiary/Agricultural Standards Inspector, Phone: 858-614-7738 | Email: | Website:

Farm Bill Mostly Neutral On Pollinators. Research Funding Up Or Steady, And Added Sugar Off The Table

Farm Bill.jpg

December 14, 2018

By: R. Thomas (Tom) Van Arsdall
Director of Public Affairs, and
Val Dolcin, President & CEO
The Pollinator Partnership

Tom Van Arsdall from the Pollinator Partnership (P2) has waded through the 807 pages of the Farm Bill now headed to the President’s office for signing. We asked P2 if the bill had any radical changes, good or bad, for pollinators in general compared to the bill passed 5 years ago. Here is the summary of their evaluation.

• Reauthorizes Pollinator conservation and research provisions enacted in the 2008 and 2014 farm bill (P2 leading role in each)
• Adds major new, enhanced coordination of honeybee/pollinator research provisions under the USDA Chief Scientist (advocated by AHPA, supported by P2)
o New Honey Bee and Pollinator Research Coordinator established in Office of the Chief Scientist.
o “Implement and coordinate research efforts per recommendation of the Pollinator Health Task Force.”
o Provides specific direction on the scope of research to be conducted and coordinated (SEE legislative language excerpts)
• Adds specialty crop pollinators eligibility to Specialty Crops Research Initiative
• Adds habitat for honey bees and other pollinators under supplemental and alternative crops section
• Does NOT include major provision that was in the Senate-passed farm bill, which essentially would have codified in detail the Pollinator Health Task Force/Strategy implemented pursuant to the Presidential Memorandum on Honey Bee and Pollinator Health.
o In addition to reference to the Pollinator Health Task Force in research language (cited above), the joint statement of managers encourages “the continuation of interagency collaboration and policy development as recommended by the Pollinator Health Task Force.”
o So at least the Presidential Memorandum, National Strategy on Honey Bee and Pollinator Health and the Pollinator Health Task Force remain in effect (no harm done).
• There’s also language clarifying that beekeepers qualify for ELAP, and clarifying what constitutes covered losses.
• While language in the Joint Statement of Managers doesn’t have force of law, it does provide clarification on legislative language decisions, plus intent of the conferees. This can be useful in advocacy efforts during implementation.
• Lots of other provisions in the farm bill can benefit/impact honey bees and other pollinators that were generally encouraging. For example –
o CRP cap will increase from 24 to 27 million acres. However, payment rates will be limited to 85% of rental rates, making CRP less attractive choice.
o Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), to continue, but at reduced funding.
o Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), an additional $185 million provided (FFAR announced last spring $15 million in leveraged funds for pollinator research).

P2 hasn’t had a chance to track down the specific sections of law referenced in the legislative language [sometimes just reference to sections being amended or deleted]. For example, according to news reports, reportedly no more cost-share assistance will be provided to growers for pollinator mixes for CRP (CP-42), largely due to excessive cost. Not able to confirm at this point.

“P2 has been concerned about excessive cost of CP-42 pollinator mix and appreciates conferees’ statements urging USDA to develop more affordable mixes for honey bee and pollinator forage.”
By: R. Thomas (Tom) Van Arsdall, Director of Public Affairs, and
Val Dolcini, President & CEO
The Pollinator Partnership


Other provisions not directly affecting pollinators, but certainly bees and beekeeping, were shared with us by other groups including the following –

Taking a bipartisan approach in the crafting of their measure, The Senate Agriculture Committee included many provisions important to our industry:
• $80 million in funding for all specialty crops under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and new prioritization for mechanization projects
§ $25 million annually for citrus greening research through the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund
§ $4 million annually for a new research initiative focusing on urban agriculture
§ Reauthorization of the Office of Pest Management Policy
§ Full $85 million in funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) with $5 million set aside for multi-state programs to be administered through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
§ An increase to $50 million in mandatory funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI)
§ Full funding for trade programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program (TASC)

The No Added Sugar change was welcomed by the both the beekeeping and maple syrup industries, if not the FDA and AMS sections of the USDA.

The new farm bill prevents maple syrup and honey producers from being required to list their pure products as containing added sugars on their nutrition labels — a plan proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration months ago that producers said was misleading.

The FDA’s goal was to update the Nutrition Facts label on products to educate consumers about the amount of added sugars in foods based on government dietary guidelines. However, no sugar is added to pure maple syrup or honey.
After getting thousands of comments on the draft plan, the FDA acknowledged in June the labeling was confusing and said it would come up with an alternative approach for maple syrup and honey.

“This was a huge mistake by the FDA so we got a common sense outcome to the pretty witless labeling requirement,” maple syrup producers said, echoed by beekeepers everywhere.

The farm bill exempts “any single-ingredient sugar, honey, agave, or syrup” that is packaged and offered for sale as a single-ingredient food from bearing the declaration ‘includes X g Added Sugars” in the nutrition label.

The FDA said in a written statement that it does not comment on pending legislation. It said it was drafting its final guidance, which it anticipates issuing by early next year.

“This guidance will provide a path forward for pure, single-ingredient ‘packaged as such’ products that does not involve the standard ‘added sugars’ declaration on the Nutrition Facts label,” the statement said.

BeeCulture/Catch the Buzz: Farm Bill

Honey (The Controversy over Chinese Honey)

Note from LACBA Web Master, Eva Andrews: There's a lot of controversy over Chinese Honey. We post only information from reputable sources. The LACBA does not claim to know the facts. Our suggestion is to know your source of honey. A good way to do that is to purchase local honey from local beekeepers. See:
Article dated 2/16/16: "Chinese Honey Banned In Europe is Flooding US Grocery Shelves - Here's How To Know The Difference" from Magazine For Healthy Living. Article on LACBA: /home/2016/2/18/chinese-honey-banned-in-europe-is-flooding-us-grocery-shelve.html

On 2/25/16 the American Beekeeping Federation shared this article on their Facebook page:

Article dated 11/25/11: "Relax, Folks, It Really is Honey After All" from NPR. 

Relax Folks, It Really Is Honey After All

(Note from LACBA Web Master, Eva Andrews: "There's a lot of controversy over Chinese Honey. We post only information from reputable sources. The LACBA does not claim to know the facts. Our suggestion is to know your source of honey. A good way to do that is to purchase local honey from local beekeepers. Article dated 2/16/16: "Chinese Honey Banned In Europe is Flooding US Grocery Shelves - Here's How To Know The Difference" from Magazine For Healthy Living. On 2/25/16 the American Beekeeping Federation shared this article on their Facebook page: Article dated 11/25/11: "Relax, Folks, It Really is Honey After Allfrom NPR.) 

NPR    By Dan Charles     (dated material: November 25, 2011)

Maybe we're too inclined to believe the worst about supermarket food.

How else to explain the reaction to a recent report about honey on the web site Food Safety News? Food Safety News is published by a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in lawsuits against food manufacturers and processors.

The post, by journalist Andrew Schneider, claimed that most honey on supermarket shelves isn't really honey. As evidence, the site cited tests showing that there is no pollen in most of that honey. (Raw honey contains lots of pollen, which bees collect along with the nectar that they turn into honey.)

If there's no pollen, asserted the story, then the honey must have been "ultrapurified," a technique that can involve diluting honey with extra water, running it through extremely fine filters, and then removing the water.

The article implied that this was part of a deliberate attempt to prevent anyone from detecting illicit honey from China. (The United States blocks imports of Chinese honey because U.S. officials decided that it was being sold at artificially low prices, undercutting American honey producers.) Schneider also reminded his readers that Chinese honey has had a history of safety problems, including contamination with banned antibiotics and lead.

Got that? Food that doesn't deserve its name, processed beyond recognition, probably adulterated, maybe unsafe, of unknown origin. It sounded so right, plenty of people decided that it just had to be true.

Bloggers and online publications ran with the story. "Most honey isn't really honey," posted Grist, repeating much of Schneider's story. "Honey! It isn't real!" shoutedTriplePundit. CNN's food blog, Eatocracy, was slightly more measured: "Most honey sold in U.S. grocery stores not worthy of its name." Tom Philpott, food blogger forMother Jonespicked up the story as well.

Here at NPR, we found the post interesting, too. But then we decided to look into it a little more closely. We talked to honey companies, academic experts, and one of the world's top honey laboratories in Germany. The closer we looked, the more misleading the story in Food Safety News seemed.

First of all, we learned that missing pollen actually is not evidence of "ultrapurification." We visited one of the country's top-tier honey packers, Dutch Gold, in Lancaster, Pa. We saw raw honey getting pumped through layers of white filters. Before the honey hit the filters, a powdered sedimentary rock called diatomaceous earth was added.

This is a standard, widely used process. It removes all the pollen, along with dust, bees' wings, and, of course, the diatomaceous earth. But it is not ultrafiltration, which filters out much more and produces a sweet substance that is no longer, in fact, honey.

Why do packers filter honey? Removing microscopic particles keeps the honey from crystallizing quickly.

"Consumers don't tend to like crystallized honey," says Jill Clark, vice president for sales and marketing at Dutch Gold. "It's very funny. In Canada, there's a lot of creamed honey sold, and people are very accustomed to honey crystallizing. Same in Europe. But the U.S. consumer is very used to a liquid product, and as soon as they see those first granules of crystallization, we get the phone calls: 'Something's wrong with my honey!'"

There's an exception to this filtration process. Dutch Gold also packs organic honey from Brazil, and organic honey doesn't go through nearly as fine a filter. Clark says that this is because organic rules prohibit the use of diatomaceous earth in the filtering process.

Of course, the raw honey that Dutch Gold gets in 50-gallon drums does contain pollen. As part of a recent auditing process, the company sent samples of imported honey that it received from India and Vietnam to a laboratory in Germany. There, scientists analyzed the pollen in that raw honey, and came to the conclusion that it was, in fact, from flowers that grow in the countries that claimed to be producing that honey.

Bottom line: Supermarket honey doesn't have pollen, but you can still call it honey. Call it filtered honey. And the lack of pollen says nothing about where it may have come from.

Now, could there still be fraud going on, involving ultrafiltration and Chinese honey? Yes, but not in the way described by the Food Safety News article.

Some people suspect that Chinese exporters are ultrafiltering some of their honey and sending it to, say, India. There, it could be mixed into raw Indian honey and exported to the US. Pollen analysis would show that this honey was from India, although at least one expert, Vaughn Bryant at Texas A&M University, says that he's seeing imported honey with an unnaturally low concentration of pollen. This, he says, could be evidence of ultrafiltration. Or it could be the kind of filtration done in the U.S., which also removes pollen.

One more thing: It's worth remembering that Chinese honey is barred from the U.S. not because it's unsafe, but because U.S. officials decided it was too cheap. Chinese honey has had more than its share of safety problems. But there's also plenty of perfectly good Chinese honey for sale on the world market. The European Union is much more fussy about honey quality than the U.S., yet the EU imports lots of honey from China.

Webinar: What Is That Honey?

Thurs, September 10th, 2015 at 3:00-4:00PM PDT

More and more honey labeling is being scrutinized and this is a good thing. States are adopting standards which must be met in order to label varietal honeys. There is also a great interest among beekeepers to know what type of honey the bees have produced. I can say first hand, I thought I knew what type of honey I had but after having it tested by Dr. Vaughn Bryant, I was proved wrong. Join us for a discussion of how Dr. Bryant determines the nectar source, how you as beekeepers can use that information to better market to the customer, and be compliant with labeling standards

*After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining our webinar.

Is It The Honey It Says It Is? Two Ways To Tell

CATCH THE BUZZ    By Jessica Burdg, Contributing Science Writer/Laboratory Equipment Magazine  June 19, 2015

The common phrase “things aren’t always what they seem” can apply to a plethora of situations over the course of your lifetime—but how about a trip to the supermarket? Food authentication, especially for items such as honey and olive oil, is becoming more prevalent due to a rise in counterfeiting and mislabeling. Laboratory professionals have long answered the food validity call, and their work continues to evolve to meet the needs of the respective industries.

Testing honey’s authenticity

Two novel ways to test for the authenticity of marketed origin in honey include melissopalynology, the study of pollen contained in the substance, and...


The Honey Lobby is Demanding That the Government Define Honey

The Atlantic     By Bourree Lam   October 2, 2014

What is honey?

The answer may seem obvious: It's the gooey substance that often sweetens a mug of hot tea. It's what Jews dip apple slices into to celebrate the new year. It's a remedy for coughs, an ingredient in some chapsticks, and a path to shinier hair (some believe).

But it turns out that what counts as honey—and what doesn't—is a bit of a sticky mess. Does honey have to contain some pollen? Is it still honey if it's cut with corn syrup? How many microns get through the filters used to process it?

The honey lobby—yes, there's a honey lobby, and it represents the nation's non-ultrafiltered honey producers—has long fought for a definition it likes. In 2011, the FDA denied a petition for a standard of identity for honey. Now, the lobby has turned to the USDA for help. The main thing they say they want is some clarity: The FDA allows anything that's “a thick, sweet, syrupy substance that bees make as food from the nectar of flowers and store in honeycombs” to be labeled honey.

Smuckers, for example, lists the sole ingredient of its honey product as "Grade A Honey," but what exactly does that mean? The USDA currently has a voluntary grading system based on moisture content, defects, flavor, and clarity—but this system is not enforced nor does it get to the heart of the issue: pollen content.

The honey lobby, to put it mildly, does not approve of honey sans pollen. They've called that syrup—the product so common on most grocery-store shelves—"food fraud," believing that true honey is a product of a particular place, unique to the flowers surrounding a given hive. But those who produce that common "filtered honey" say that it's what consumers want.

"Many of us beekeepers are outraged at the dumping of foreign honey. And honey that is cut with corn syrup."

To make matters more complicated, China currently leads the way in global honey exports, and Chinese honey has been accused of being cut with fructose syrup. This, too, is part of what the honey lobby wants to get at—that a sweetener that's the result of feeding corn syrup to bees (or adding sugar or syrup to honey directly) shouldn't be considered real honey.

To sort out this situation, the USDA has issued a call for comments to describe "how a Federal standard of identity for honey would be in the interest of consumers, the honey industry, and U.S. agriculture." Those comments are publicly available on, and so far 70 comments have been received from honey makers around the country.

The vast majority—more than 95 percent—of the comments filed support the need for the USDA to set a standard, but there's also concern that the regulations will be too strict, making honey production difficult for small beekeepers. T. Pollard writes: "This additional regulatory efforts [sic] would only benefit the big honey operations, as those proprietors are the ones pushing for additional regulations by adding undue expense on the smaller honey operations."

As if all that weren't trouble enough for the nation's honey producers, there's also been the pesky trouble of "honey laundering," which refers to imported honey arriving with fake paperwork or smuggled in avoiding duties. As one response to the USDA's call bemoaned: "Many of us beekeepers, are outraged at the dumping of foreign honey. And honey that is cut with corn syrup." Last year, U.S. Customs had one of the biggest honey busts ever. “Project Honeygate” caught two U.S. honey plants attempting to skirt $180 million in anti-dumping duties. Charles Schumer called it a "buzzkill" for honey smugglers and called for a zero-tolerance policy for honey laundering.

Read at:

Honey Labeling

National Honey Board 

One of the most important decisions that a food marketer has to make is what to put on the label of a food product. It needs to appeal to the consumer and stand out from other food packages on the shelf. There are also legal considerations. And let’s face it, when it comes to labeling a honey jar, there’s limited space. 

Basic Labeling Requirements


The “Common” Name of the Product

The word “honey” must be visible on the label. The name of a plant or blossom may be used if it is the primary floral source for the honey. Honey must be labeled with its common or usual name on the front of your package. (i.e. “Honey” or “Clover Honey”)

Net Weight

The net weight of your product (excluding packaging), both in pounds/ounces and in metric weight (g) must be included in the lower third of your front label panel in easy-to-read type. (i.e. Net Wt. 16 oz. (454 g)) When determining net weight, use the government conversion factor of 1 ounce (oz) = 28.3495 grams or 1 pound (lb.) = 453.592 grams. Round after making the calculation – not before. Use no more than three digits after the decimal point on the package. One may round down the final weight to avoid overstating the contents. When rounding, use typical mathematical rounding rules.


Single ingredient products (such as honey) do not have to name that single ingredient when already used in the common or usual name on the front panel. However, if there are ingredients other than honey, you must list them in an ingredient statement. Some exceptions are spices, flavorings and incidental additives (additives which have no functional role and with minimal presence in the finished product) which have special rules.

The type size for ingredient listings must be no less than 1/16th inch as measured by the small letter “o” or by the large letter “O” if all caps are used in the declaration. There are exemptions that allow smaller type sizes for small packages.

Contact Information

The label must let consumers know who put the product on the market and how to contact that person. The name and the address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor of a packaged food product are required to appear on the label of the packaged food. This information, sometimes referred to as the “signature line,” must appear on the front label panel or the information panel. If space permits, include full address and telephone number. The information must be in a type size that is at least 1/16th inch tall.

FDA Appeals for Input on Honey Labeling- Deadline for Comments June 9, 2014

Deadline for comment: June 9, 2014 

FDA Guidance for Industry: Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products

Please pay attention to this serious issue that can have a direct impact on the honey industry.  It is extremely important that your organization submit comments and distribute this communication to your membership so they can also submit comments and ensure the honey industry maintains an active role in rule-making events.

Please feel free to contact with questions regarding the submission of comments.

 The full text can be found here:

To ensure your comments are considered by the FDA before the final draft is published, submit either electronic or written comments on the draft guidance by June 9, 2014.
Submit electronic comments on the draft guidance to: 
Submit written comments to: 

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305) 
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

FDS's New Guidance for Labeling Honey

(This message brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ: Kim Flottom,  Bee Culture, The Magazine Of American Beekeeping, published by the A.I. Root Company. Twitter.FacebookBee Culture’s Blog.) 4/8/14

FDA Issues Draft Guidance Intended to Help Ensure the Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products

It is our belief that this Draft Guidance has been accepted, and is now ready to be published in the Federal Register, however that is not entirely clear on the Register page. When officially published, this Guidance will be official.

This Notice was passed along to us by Dave Maloney

FDA is issuing draft guidance to help members of the food industry ensure they are properly labeling honey and honey products, and to remind them that honey and honey products must not be misbranded or adulterated under the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The proper labeling of these products helps to ensure that consumers understand the contents of honey and honey products available for purchase and can differentiate between them.

The draft guidance summarizes FDA’s legal authority over honey and honey products; provides a commonly used definition of honey; and offers advice on labeling issues such as the floral source of honey, blends of honey and other sweeteners, and blends of honey and other ingredients, such as flavors. It also describes some of the measures FDA takes to guard against honey adulterated with cane sugar, corn syrup, or residues of chloramphenicol or fluoroquinolones.

All interested parties are invited to comment on the draft guidance document

(Bee Culture believes the comment period is closed, but that is not crystal clear on the Federal Register page. Please read the Guidance and additional information on the link pages, below.).

Additional Information:
Draft Guidance for Industry: Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products
Federal Register Notice for the Draft Guidance

Read at:

The Truth Behind The Honey Labels: Fox 17 Investigation

 Fox 17 News   By Jennifer Dowling    2/25/14

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (February 25, 2014) — “I just take, probably a little spoonful like this,” said Ying Woellhaf of Whitehall, as she stirred her tea.

Ying and husband Raymond reach for their honey jar when they want something sweet. “We try to use honey as much as possible versus refined sugar,” said Ying.

But, often the labels on that honey you’re buying may not be telling you the whole story. “This one actually says imitation honey,” said Ying, looking over a generic looking honey bear bottle at the store.

A honey bottling company headquartered in Onsted, Mich., was recently fined by the federal government for selling transshipped, mislabeled Chinese honey during a federal investigation that was called “Operation Honeygate.” Groeb Farms, now called Natural American Foods, paid a $2 million fine.

The company said the executives responsible were no longer with the company.

However, many local West Michigan beekeepers say the case points to a larger problem. Research at Texas A&M University shows that most honey labels aren’t telling the truth, and 75% of the honey in the U.S. is not what it says it is on the label. And this could apply to as much as 90% of the nation’s honey, according to lead federal honey investigator.

That’s where Dr. Vaughn Bryant comes into the picture.

He grew up in Holland, Mich., and now he works as an anthropology professor at Texas A&M. He’s also known as the “honey detective.”

Dr. Bryant says pollen is so unique in all the different plants worldwide, it can be used as a fingerprint. In his lab, he can uncover a honey’s unique “pollen print,” which reveals where it’s from.

Bryant keeps an enormous library of pollen in the lab to compare with others and unravel the mystery of a honey’s source. “We have 20,000 different types,” he said.

“When we look at a honey sample and we find certain kinds of plants, like say palm trees, we know we’re dealing in the tropics,” said Bryant.

FOX 17 wanted to know where some of the honey that sits on your West Michigan grocery store shelves comes from, because sometimes the labels just aren’t that clear, according to Bryant. So, we took some samples and and sent them to Texas A&M University. Our five samples included a bottle from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms, Honey Tree’s Michigan Great Lakes Raw Honey, Organic Rainforest honey, plus a Meijer brand and a Spartan brand.

“Most of them were not what they claimed to be,” said Bryant.

First, he looked at the honey bottled from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms. They were previously fined for mislabeling Chinese honey. The label on this particular bottle said “Pure Honey Clover.” Although Dr. Bryant said the sample wasn’t from China, he said there was still a problem with the label. “It turned out not to be clover honey.”

There was “not enough clover pollen to warrant the honey being called a unifloral clover honey,” his report said. The other flower pollens found in the honey included “soybeans, chestnut, mesquite, and eucalyptus.”

“A little bit of clover pollen in here,” said Vaughn. “But it would not qualify as clover pollen. So here’s the case where it’s sold as pure clover honey, but it’s really not.”

Onto jar number two, a jar labeled Great Lakes Raw Michigan Honey. This honey appeared much more true to form according to Dr. Bryant’s analysis. He said there was “sumac” pollen in this sample, which grows commonly in the state. “It could well be from Michigan,” said Bryant. However, a few other suspicious pollens were discovered, too, which could indicate there was other honey mixed in from southern regions, or it could simply mean that the pollen accidentally got in there some other way. Bryant’s report showed pollen from citrus:  lemon, orange, sweetgum, mesquite, eucalyptus and magnolia.

“Those could have been contamination from some other source,” said Bryant. “Or, they could have been part of a mixture. It’s hard to tell.”

Chris Olney, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honey Tree said that the pollen from southern regions likely came from hives that were used in Florida, then brought to Michigan.  He said 50% of the hives are transported by beekeepers to southern regions like Florida to pollinate citrus crops, then they are brought back to Michigan to pollinate crops here in the summer.

Now on to sample 3, which was labeled Organic Rainforest honey. “We don’t know what it is,” said Bryant.

The label had the abbreviation “BR” on the back, which stands for Brazil. However, Bryant couldn’t prove it came from rainforest flowers. It came back from testing as a question mark, because someone had strained all the pollen out. “We have no idea whether it’s organic,” said Bryant. “We have no idea whether it’s from the rainforest or anything else.”

Sample 4, the Meijer Pure Clover honey, had stamps for USA, Canada, and Argentina on the label, but for Bryant, it remains a question mark because, according to the test, “all of the pollen has been removed.”

Sample 5, the Spartan premium golden honey had the markings of “AR” and “CA” stamped on the back. AR stands for Argentina according to country code listings, and CA stands for Canada. However, Bryant couldn’t prove where this sample was from either country. “One certainly could not prove that the contents of this honey is what is claimed on the label.”

We can’t say for sure what’s happening with our samples.

Bryant points out in past cases of illegal honey shipping, unscrupulous honey dealers have filtered out the pollen on purpose so illegally shipped honey can come into the country untraceable to its source.

“The United States does not have any affecting labeling laws,” said Bryant.

Some individual states have made their own stricter labeling laws, but the Michigan Department of Agriculture says, “Michigan does not have specific labeling requirements for where honey comes from.”

The honey mystery can also involve other foods that use honey, such as cereal. We tried to find out if Battle Creek-based Kellogg’s uses foreign or domestic sourced honey, but they wouldn’t reveal any information. They only said, “Details of our supply chain are confidential.”

“What we really need to do is get our federal government to start policing this whole thing,” said Bryant.

Meanwhile, Ying Woellhaf feels the best option for now is to buy from a local beekeeper, an actual person that you can call on the phone and perhaps even visit their hives. “This one is actually right from Ludington,” Ying said of her favorite brand. “It’s always smart to know what you’re feeding yourself and your kids.”

A trade bill in the U.S. Senate, 662, would help the government better police honey coming into the country, but it is still in the finance committee, .

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow sits on that committee. FOX 17 put a call into her office to see if she is supporting the legislation. No official word back as of newstime Tuesday.

Read more:

Honey Laws - GMOs & Pollen

(The following is brought to us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)   4/25/13

Honey's In The News!

Starting with GMO Labeling. Boxer, DeFazio introduce federal GMO labeling bill

By Hank Schultz, in Nutra-Ingredients, USA

A bill requiring the labeling of GMO ingredients has been introduced at the federal level by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR.  Even though the bill’s chances of passage are uncertain, observers see it as a watershed moment.

And this begs the future question… will honey made from GMO plants require GMO labels? The EU wrestled with this already, and didn’t come to an easy solution for U.S. honey.

 And Then, the question of

Is Honey, Honey, if it doesn’t contain pollen? Has been answered. Yes, it is. In every case heard.

Wisconsin, Feb 8, 2013

Dismissed in Federal Court in Regan vs. Sue Honey Ass’n.

Wis honey standard is based on a Codex Alimentarius provision that prohibits pollen removal.

Federal Law has no standard for honey identity, and the label uses the common or usual name – honey.

Honey is honey, even in the absence of pollen, the court said.

Feb 13, 2013

Is honey, honey if it does not contain pollen?

Brod vs. Sioux Honey, Ross vs. Sioux Honey, Overton vs CVS Caremark Corp, Guerrero vs. Target Corp. and Honeytree.

Yes, because of conflicting state and federal laws. No federal standard of identity for honey. So, it is what’s called conflict preemption, where it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal law, and obstacle preemption where the state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of of the full purposes and objections of congress. Plus, express preemption, which says, essentially, that if that’s the way it is in some places, that’s the way it will be here.

A simple summary would be that the courts want uniformity between state and federal laws.

So it goes.

AFDO Issues Guidance on Cottage Foods

By Dan Flynn (Food Safety News) May 30, 2012

With so many state lawmakers willing to throw out the rulebook when it comes to cottage foods, the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) has decided it's time to draw the line.

The 116-year-old AFDO has published a 20-page "guidance document" with "consensus opinion of best practices and limitations on this somewhat controversial matter."

cottage-food-jams-iphone.jpgAFDO says it developed the guidance document for state and local food safety regulators to help them with management of food safety issues associated with cottage food operations.  AFDO Food Committee, consisting of food protection officials from around the country, drafted the document.

AFDO defines cottage food as products made in a home kitchen for direct sale to consumers. The FDA Food Code, adopted by most state and local jurisdictions, prohibits the sale of food prepared in a home kitchen from being sold in any food establishment, retail food store, or to any wholesale food manufacturer.

Read more:

National Honey Board: Honey is Made from Nectar, Not Pollen

By Bruce Boynton (Food Safety News) 4/23/12


In the last several months various stories have resulted in misunderstanding and confusion about honey and honey filtration, leading some readers to believe that any honey without pollen is not real honey.

This is not true. Honey without pollen is still honey nutritionally and in flavor, and that is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture identifies it as such.  This misunderstanding has also led to several class action lawsuits regarding purchases of honey without pollen.

The truth is that honey is made by honey bees from nectar of flowers and plants, not pollen.  Pollen grains may end up in the exposed honey in the hive through any number of incidental or accidental ways, but it is not used by honey bees to make honey. 

Consumers have varying opinions about their choice of honey type, flavor and origin.  There are many different kinds of honey available in the U.S. market, such as honey in the comb, liquid honey that is considered "raw", creamed honey, as well as organic honey.   The majority of honey sold at retail in the U.S. every year, and preferred by most consumers, is the clear, golden liquid honey that has been strained or filtered to remove undesirable particles that make honey cloudy.  All honey crystallizes eventually; suspended particles (including pollen) and fine air bubbles in honey contribute to faster crystallization.  Filtering pollen and other particles out helps delay crystallization, allowing the honey to remain liquid for a much longer period than honey that has not been fil tered.

According to the United States Standards, honey can be filtered to remove fine particles, pollen grains, air bubbles and other materials found suspended in the honey1.  In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gives higher grades for honey that has good clarity.  Importantly, honey that has been filtered to meet USDA's grading standards may not have pollen, but it is still honey.

News stories have reported on illegal activities such as circumvention of tariffs on imported honey, and there are claims that some dishonest foreign suppliers may be "ultrafiltering" their honey to clean it up or remove the small amounts of pollen grains, often used as a marker to identify the country of origin. Ultrafiltering is not the same as filtering honey. Somewhere during the telling and retelling of these news stories, the term "ultrafiltered" became misused and confused with more traditional filtration methods used in the U.S. honey industry to produce clear, golden honey.
Read more:

(The above brought to you by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)

There’s More To The Highly Filtered Honey Story

The following is from Vaughn M. Bryant, Professor and Director, Palynology Laboratory Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University in response to the BUZZ sent out yesterday from Food Safety News regarding honey and pollen. He sees The Rest Of The Story when it comes to the honey filter question. There’s less than we imagined, and he offers the following….

I look at about 150 honey samples a year for importers, exporters, and local beekeepers.  What is said in the Food Safety News Release you put out yesterday in your BUZZ notice is true. 

However, what is also true is that once the pollen is removed, and all honey does have pollen unless it is a pure honeydew, it is not possible to determine either the nectar source or the geographical origin of the honey.  There have been some attempts to do this by using the isotopic signatures of honey, but thus far this has not proven effective or reliable.

Once honey is filtered, and we suspect the illegal Chinese honey that is still entering the US market is being highly filtered (but not Ultrafiltered), then it can no longer be traced to its geographical origin.  Also, when any highly filtered honey is mixed with honey from another region, such as the local honey in a SE Asian country, then the only pollen that will appear in the honey is the pollen from the SE Asian country.  However, by examining the pollen concentration values of those honey samples we can still determine that they are a blend of both filtered and unfiltered honey, but cannot determine the origin of the filtered portion.

Yes, the USDA does encourage honey to be highly filtered so it will appear crystal clear of any impurities, but that is the problem.  Once any honey is highly filtered we can no longer determine where it comes from….whether from domestic sources or from foreign or illegal sources. (Consumers, be careful what you wish for. Ed.). 

Another problem is that the majority of honey I have examined, which is currently being sold in supermarkets nationwide, contains no pollen.  Jars of honey I have examined claim to be sage or thyme honey, orange blossom or tupelo honey, buckwheat or sourwood honey, and yet with no pollen present in those jars we cannot be certain of the true nectar contents. As such anyone can remove all the pollen and then call clover or rapeseed honey anything they might want to call it.  With no pollen as proof, clover honey could be labeled orange blossom, sourwood, tupelo, or sage honey because there are no USDA or FDA rules that demand truth-in labeling in terms of the type of honey that is sold in the USA. 

In my many years of experience I have found that locally-produced honey is usually full of pollen and is most often authentic in terms of what it claims to be.

Vaughn M. Bryant
Professor and Director, Palynology Laboratory, Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University

(The above brought to you by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)

Is there Saltpeter in Your Saffron and Melamine in Your Milk?

By Veronique Greenwood (Discover Magazine) 4/19/12

You might think that the days when unscrupulous shopkeepers mixed food with plaster or ditchwater to boost profits are long gone, on the far side of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. You’d be wrong, though: more often than you’d like to think, companies cut corners by adulterating their products with other substances, sometimes killing customers in process.

Topping the list of most-frequently adulterated foods are olive oil, milk, honey, and saffron, according to a new database put together by the US Pharmacopeial Convention, the non-profit that sets standards for drug and food ingredients. Developed to help trace patterns in adulteration, the database includes more than a thousand cases from 1980 to 2010 and records exactly what the foods were mixed with and how the adulteration was detected, along with links to the press reports and scientific papers on each case.

Searching by food or by adulterant, you can get a sense of what’s going on with the top four. Most of the adulteration doesn’t seem immediately dangerous, merely fraudulent. Olive oil is most often mixed with cheaper oils made from soybeans, corn, hazelnuts, or rapeseed, which can be dangerous for people with allergies. Honey is diluted with cheap corn syrup and other sugars. Saffron is mixed with all manner of other substances, everything from sandalwood dust to saltpeter to gypsum. Out of the 194 cases of milk adulteration, most involved mixing extra proteins in or substituting a cheaper variety of milk for an expensive one, but 24 involved the chemical melamine, a toxic compound that makes milk register as more protein-rich on tests.

One of the most infamous cases of recent adulteration, in China in 2008, involved dairy products mixed with melamine. At least six babies died and 300,000 more sickened. Though that case didn’t spread beyond Chinese borders, adulterants are a global problem. The year before,melamine also cropped up in wheat gluten used in pet foods sold in the US, resulting in the deaths of many animals. The wheat gluten, it turned out, came from China, where food safety enforcement is notoriously lax.

As this case illustrates, issues with one country’s food can easily spread to others, and as more and more food is made from ingredients produced around the world, food safety agencies in the US and elsewhere will need to step up their game.

Image from Smabs Sputzer

Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn't Honey

More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn't exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News.
The results show that the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled "honey."
The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world's food safety agencies.
The food safety divisions of the  World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources. Read more: