Rising Tide of Honey Laundering
Chinese honey gets around US and EU trade barriers
Honey carries a nature-made “country of origin label:” the pollen picked up by bees as they collect the nectar from which the honey is produced. Indeed, melissopalynologists (honey pollen scientists) can get pretty specific in locating a honey’s regional floral sources on the map.
Lately, honey stripped of its COOL pollen has been flooding the US market, says Food Safety News, a Web-based newspaper published by Marler Clark, a law firm that represents victims of foodborne illness. FSN purchased more than 60 samples of honey at a range of retail outlets in 10 states and D.C., had the samples tested, and found that more than 75% contained no pollen at all.
The ultra-filtered honey is probably from China by way of India, FSN reports.
Subject to steep tariffs in the US since 2001, banned by the EU since 2002, Chinese honey has been finding its way into these markets via “honey laundering.” Scrubbed of pollen, it has been transshipped through third countries, including Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, and Thailand, as well as India. This according to a US Department of Justice release regarding one alleged laundering conspiracy, overseen by a German company.
The US trade barrier was raised against low-cost (and inferior quality) Chinese honey to protect domestic producers. The EU’s 2002 ban followed the detection of illegal antibiotics in the honey. The US Food and Drug Administration issued an import alert for honey containing the antibiotic chloramphenicol the same year.
The laundering charges have stung in India. The EU now bans all honey from India because of the lack of traceability and the presence of heavy metals. Consumer advocates worry that the Chinese honey will wind up in Indian supermarkets. An article from India’s Centre for Science and Environment is highly critical of the Indian industry … but also offers some good news: Kejriwal Bee Care India has become the first in the world to earn a True Source Honey certification as an exporter, which requires third-party audits.
The True Source Honey initiative was launched in January to provide a system of traceability through the global supply chains that end with consumers in North America. Certification by auditors is required for exporters and packers, with more stringent requirements applied to exporters in high-risk countries India and Vietnam. Ironically, China is a medium-risk exporting country.
US importers participating in True Source Honey are: Ergogenic Nutrition; Impex Group; Lamex Foods, Inc.; Odem International, Inc.; and Sunland Trading, Inc. Odem is number 3 in our Datamyne Top 5 importers by volume, based on 2010 bill of lading data (below). Ranked among the top 20 are Impex Group at number 7 and Ergogenic Nutrition at number 16.
Date posted: November 18, 2011