With all the recent press concerning the Salmonella outbreak that has been linked to peanut butter from a Georgia plant, it is understandable that the stories concerning the “Honey Laundering” scam hasn’t garnered national attention. At least no one has died from eating the tainted honey – yet. As I mentioned in my earlier articles, honey from China that has been found to contain everything from high fructose corn syrup, pesticides and antibiotics, is being transshipped from China to a third country and then smuggled into the US. The honey is then re-labeled as a product of that third country rather than a product of China to avoid the tariffs and the closer scrutiny it would be subject to as a product of China.

As reported in the recent Seattle PI series of newspaper articles, the US honey packers are currently using imported honey for more than one-half the honey consumed in the country and much of it is coming from countries that raise few bees and have no record of producing honey for export. One of the largest packers in the country is Silverbow whose customers include Costco, Walmart and Safeway. Gary Grigg, its owner, is quoted in one of the articles as saying “The FDA is on top of it and they pull samples and check containers before they release them to us to buy – They’re the watchdogs.” I don’t think so. The FDA even states that the agency only tests about a hundred honey samples a year and relies heavily on tips from industry whistle-blowers. It sounds to me like the fox is in charge of watching the hen house.

Another problem is the fact that there is no legal definition of what honey is in the US. There is nothing that says high fructose corn syrup or sugar water added to honey cannot be called honey. The USDA has stated that they don’t have the resources to enforce a standard if one existed – so why try. And for the organic consumers, the USDA has said “you can certify any product as organic as long as you comply with the existing regulation, but there are no regulations for honey”. That means that the green USDA organic sticker on honey is meaningless”. In fact, the USDA has never levied a fine for violation of organic rules for honey or any other product. In this vacuum the State of Florida has recently passed a standard definition for honey with teeth that allow for civil penalties against abusers of the statute. Hopefully other states will follow in adopting similar laws. So how many of you serve your children honey nut cheerios for breakfast, or honey graham crackers for an afternoon snack or your honey wheat berry bread for lunch? Read the ingredients and you will see honey listed, but what is the percent of it compared to the high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners that are listed along with it, and what assurance do you even have that the honey listed is really honey?

So the bottom line for now is for the buyer to beware. Ask questions and don’t assume. And if you are buying honey – buy it from someone you know and even then ask questions.