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.

Chinese Honey: Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves. Here's How to Know the Difference

(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.) 

Magazine for Healthy    February 15, 2016

The devastating reality is that one third of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is probably smuggled in from China, which means that there is a possibility that it is tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.

Documents which resulted from the investigation of Food Safety News prove that we here consume millions of pounds of imported, unsafe honey, which is otherwise banned in numerous countries.

Even after the widespread arrests and convictions of major smugglers over the last two years, this flow of Chinese honey continues unstopped, despite assurances from the Food and Drug Administration and other federal officials that the hundreds of millions of pounds reaching store shelves were authentic and safe.

Food Safety News also interviewed numerous experts, which claim that some of the largest and most long-established U.S. honey packers are buying mislabeled, transshipped or possibly altered honey knowingly. Thus they have the chance to sell it cheaper than those companies who rigorously inspect honey and opt for quality and safety.

Richard Adee, the Washington Legislative Chairman of the American Honey Producers Association, points out that “It’s no secret that the honey smuggling is being driven by money, the desire to save a couple of pennies a pound.

These big packers are still using imported honey of uncertain safety that they know is illegal because they know their chances of getting caught are slim.”

All shipments of honey from India were barred by food safety investigators from the European Union due to the presence of lead and illegal animal antibiotics.

Moreover, investigations discovered that an even larger amount of honey apparently had been concocted without the help of bees, made from artificial sweeteners and then extensively filtered to remove any proof of contaminants or adulteration or indications of precisely where the honey actually originated.

The e rampant honey laundering and the record amount of the Chinese honey purchased by major U.S. packers was proved by an examination of international and government shipping tallies, customs documents and interviews with some of North America’s top honey importers and brokers.

Suebee Co-Op, the nation’s oldest and largest honey packer and seller, was contacted by Food Safety News in order to respond to these allegations and to learn where it gets its honey. However, they remained silent, and did not answer to any call or emails that they repeatedly got. Other major honey seller also did not return to calls and emails.

Indian Honey Will Not Be Consumed in EU

The countries of the European Union and more others officially banned this questionable honey at the beginning of June 2010. On the other hand, and on the other side of the ocean, we live in a place where the FDA checks few of the thousands of shipments arriving through 22 American ports each year.

Namely, FDA data shows that, between January and June, just 24 honey shipments were stopped from entering the country. The number of loads and the inspection team are not exposed by the agency.

Furthermore, during that same period, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that almost 43 million pounds of honey entered the U.S. Of that, the Department of Commerce said 37.7 million pounds came from India. Yes, we speak about the same honey that is banned in the EU due to lack of proper paperwork that it is not Chinese and proofs that it contained animal medicine and lead.

Elise Gagnon, president of Odem International, which is a worldwide trading house that specializes in bulk raw honey says that“There are still millions of pounds of transshipped Chinese honey coming in the U.S. and it’s all coming now from India and Vietnam and everybody in the industry knows that.”

FDA claims that it has regulations that prohibited foods which are banned in other countries from entering the U.S., but last month, its poor excuse was as follows:It “would not know about honey that has been banned from other countries …”

Adee said the European ban against Indian honey is far from a secret, so the response of the FDA’s is “absurd.”

He is the country’s largest honey producer, possessing 80,000 bee colonies in five states,and asks “Why are we the dumping ground of the world for something that’s banned in all these other countries?”-We’re supposed to have the world’s safest food supply but we’re letting in boatloads of this adulterated honey that all these other countries know is contaminated and FDA does nothing.”

Using the existing resources, the food safety agency claims that it invests the strongest efforts possible, and and will do more when the newly passed Food Safety Modernization Act is up and running.

What are the origins of the honey we consume?

The USDA says U.S. beekeepers can only supply about a 48 percent of what’s needed here.  The remaining 52 percent comes from 41 other countries, and the U.S. consumes about 400 million pounds of honey a year – about 1.3 pounds a person. 35 percent of it is consumed in homes, restaurants and institutions, and the other 65 percent is used in industry for sauces, beverages,cereals, baked goods, and hundreds of different processed foods.

A private shipping intelligence service, Import Genius, searched its databases of all U.S. Customs import data for Food Safety News and provided the following information:

– Over the past 18 months, the U.S. imported 208 million pounds of honey.

– Almost 60 percent of the imported honey, that is, 123 million pounds, came from Asian countries, the traditional laundering points for Chinese honey, with 45 million pounds coming from India alone.

– only about 48 million pounds came from trusted and usually reliable suppliers in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Mexico and Uruguay.

Adee, who is also a past president of the American Honey Producers Association says that “this should be a red flag to FDA and the federal investigators. India doesn’t have anywhere near the capacity – enough bees – to produce 45 million pounds of honey. It has to come from China.”

What makes Chinese honey harmful?

In 2001, the U.S. Commerce Department imposed a stiff tariff of $1.20 a pound on Chinese honey to dissuade that country from dumping its dirt-cheap product on the American market and forcing hundreds of U.S. beekeepers out of the business. Then, various illegal methods were used by Chinese honeymakers to hide the origin of their honey.

In the same period, Chinese beekeepers saw a bacterial epidemic of foulbrood disease race through their hives at wildfire speed, killing tens of millions of bees. This disease was fought against using several Indian-made animal antibiotics, including chloramphenicol.

Chloramphenicol as proved to have numerous harmful effects by medical researchers, and children given chloramphenicol as an antibiotic were found to be susceptible to DNA damage and carcinogenicity. Not long after this, its presence in food was banned by the FDA.

Ronald Phipps, head of the major honey brokerage firm CPNA International.andco-chairman of the International Committee for Promotion of Honey and Health comments on this situation by stating that“we need imported honey in this country.

But, what we don’t need is circumvented honey, honey that is mislabeled as to country of origin, honey that is contaminated with antibiotics or heavy metal.” This is more than just a wise conclusion.


A Lab Is Trying to Keep China from Dodging U.S. Tarrifs on Honey

The New York Times  Peter Andrey Smith January 19, 2015 

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Behind the immaculate gray walls of the Customs and Border Protection’s laboratory here stands a cabinet containing three plastic vials filled with a sticky, yellowish substance. Honey, or so an importer has claimed.

The lab’s task: Determine whether the samples are adulterated with sweeteners or syrups, and, if they really are mostly honey, figure out where it originated. If the honey comes from China, often the case, the entire shipment from which the samples came may be subject to additional taxes.

The chemists here regularly test a wide range of imported goods, but they specialize in analyzing agricultural imports. With remarkable precision, these scientists can tell you where the peanuts in your peanut butter came from and where the mangoes in your jam were grown.

But honey, No. 0409 on the 2015 Harmonized Tariff Schedule, has been a focal point for the lab and the source of a long-running international food scam that has challenged even the existing forensic technology.

Read more... 

Cheap Chinese Honey Overwhelms EU

(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.) 

When They Closed The Door To Honey With GMO Pollen, What Did They Expect?

By Alan Harman

Cheap Chinese honey is flooding the European Union and the continent’s beekeepers are crying out for help.

Copa-Cogeca, the umbrella body for EU farmers and co-ops, is calling for the European Commission to act.

In a letter sent to EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, Copa-Cogeca says the cheap Chinese honey does not have the same production or labor costs as the European product.

Etienne Bruneau, chairman of Copa-Cogecas’ working party on honey, is urging the EU Commission to step up controls and look into the possibility of establishing anti-dumping measures against the shoddy imports.

“Europe has a long tradition in producing and consuming honey,” Bruneau says. “Beekeeping is an important economic activity and it is vital for crop pollination in Europe. With production of around 215, 000 tonnes of honey a year and increasing consumption, the EU has a 60% self-sufficiency rate.”

Bruneau says that in the last five years, there has been a 50% jump in honey imports from China coming into the EU, mainly due to their low prices.

“Import prices for Chinese honey are the lowest of all honey import prices. They are at least two times lower than the European prices. European honey producers are therefore facing unfair competition which threatens thousands of jobs mostly in EU rural areas and which could deepen the current economic crisis.”.

Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen says with the low import prices and with such a big difference between the Chinese and European prices, production costs and labor costs, European honey producers can no longer earn a decent income.

“In these conditions, they would need three times more hives than the current average of 400 hives which are necessary for them to earn a decent income and make a living from their activity, which is simply not feasible,” Pesonen says.

“We are therefore calling on the European Commission to investigate on the possibility of establishing anti-dumping measures, drawing on experience and actions already taken in other parts of the world like the United States. Controls also need to be improved so that we can better value the intrinsic quality of honey and offer consumers a safe and high quality product.”

(This ezine is also available online at http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-

No Imports of Funny Honey

(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.) 

China Worries About Importing Funny Honey. Really. Anybody else see the irony?

By Alan Harman

China is requiring strict biosecurity rules on its imports of Australian honey.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports food safety scares within China have led to tough export conditions being imposed on Tasmania's honey producers who ship several hundred tonnes a year of their unique leatherwood honey to China.

Honey producer Julian Wolfhagen tells the ABC China is the only country to impose a strict limit on microscopic yeast and bacteria levels.

“In our perspective with honey, it's probably unrealistic really,” he says.

But Chinese honey distributor Chin Hon Toh says the market is sensitive.

 “There are a lot of food safety issues in China,” he says.

For those who negotiate the red tape the Chinese market is booming.

Tasmanian Beekeepers Association president Lindsay Bourke says the market is demanding twice as much each year.

“We have people coming to our premises every week, delegations from China,” he says.

Producers are investing in new equipment to keep up.

About two-thirds of Tasmania's honey production is from leatherwood blossom.  Flowering from January until April, the leatherwood tree (Eucryphia lucida) is unique to the island state and grows in rainforests in the southern and western areas.

Leatherwood honey has a strong flavor and particularly distinctive aroma and has established a worldwide reputation as a distinct honey type.

This ezine is also available online at http://home.ezezine.com/1636/1636-2013. 

Duties Placed on Chinese Honey

(The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal.) 


The International Trade Commission voted Monday, Nov. 19, to continue anti-dumping duties on Chinese imported honey.  After testimony presented earlier, the Commission decided that "removing the tariffs would likely hurt the domestic industry."

"The commission voted 5-0 to maintain the protective measures on Chinese honey following a second sunset review to determine whether U.S. honey producers still needed the duties. Domestic trade groups, The American Honey Producers Association and the Sioux Honey Association, claimed honey from China being sold at below market value would harm the industry," according to a story written by Jonathan Randles of Law360.

"The Uruguay Round Agreements Act requires the United States to revoke an anti-dumping or counterveiling duty order, or terminate a suspension agreement, after five years unless the department and the ITC determine that revoking the order or terminating the suspension agreement would likely lead to the continuation or recurrence of dumping or subsidies and of material injury within a reasonably foreseeable time," according to the "sunset review" conducted every five years.

The Commerce Department began their investigation on Chinese honey dumping in 2000 and the International Trade Commission made the decision to start protective tariffs on Chinese honey imports that year. 

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