Just because the label says "Honey" doesn't mean a bee would eat it

According to the honey industry, China is dumping tons of stuff in the United States that a bee wouldn't recognize.

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“The brokers know that if there’s an absence of all pollen in the raw honey we won’t buy it, we won’t touch it, because without pollen we have no way to verify its origin.”

He said his company uses “extreme care” including pollen analysis when purchasing foreign honey, especially from countries like India, Vietnam and others that have or have had “business arrangements” with Chinese honey producers.

Chinese honey has long had a poor reputation in theU.S., where – in 2001 – the Federal Trade Commission imposed stiff import tariffs or taxes to stop the Chinese from flooding the marketplace with dirt-cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business.

To avoid the dumping tariffs, the Chinese quickly began transshipping

honey to several other countries, then laundering it by switching the color of the shipping drums, the documents and labels to indicate a bogus but tariff-free country of origin, reports Schneider.

MostU.S.honey buyers knew about the Chinese actions, but because of the sudden availability of lower cost honey, they didn’t raise any alarm.

“The FDA — either because of lack of interest or resources — devoted little effort to inspecting imported honey,” writes Schneider. “Nevertheless, the agency had occasionally either been told of, or had stumbled upon, Chinese honey contaminated with chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics which are dangerous, even fatal, to a very small percentage of the population.”

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In one instance 10 years ago, contaminated Chinese honey was shipped toCanadaand then on to a warehouse inHoustonwhere it was sold to several major suppliers.

Eventually, some honey packers became worried about what they were pumping into the plastic bears and jars they were selling. They began using in-house or private labs to test for honey diluted with inexpensive high fructose corn syrup or 13 other illegal sweeteners or for the presence of illegal antibiotics. But even the most sophisticated of these tests could not pinpoint the geographic source of the honey.

 Food scientists and honey specialists say pollen is the only foolproof fingerprint to a honey’s source.

U.S. Customs and Justice Department investigators told Schneider that wheneverU.S.food safety or criminal experts verify a method to identify potentially illegal honey — such as analyzing the pollen — the laundering operators find a way to thwart it.

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Rob Kerby
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