Ban Contaminated Honey Imports From Asia

Target: Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Goal: Halt imports of contaminated Asian honey and keep it out of U.S. grocery stores.

We’ve all heard of “money laundering,” but what about “honey laundering?” The process is essentially the same—putting contaminated honey through a heating process so that it cannot be traced back to its origin, then pushing this honey through legitimate honey businesses so that it can be sold without suspicion. It is estimated that at least a third of all honey imported into the United States is treated with this honey laundering process and smuggled in from China in order to mask the presence of heavy metal toxins and illegal animal antibiotics in the honey.

Asian honey is already banned in the European Union due to this contamination, but is now flooding the U.S. honey market. Richard Adee, the Washington Legislative Chairman of the American Honey Producers Association asks, “Why are we the dumping ground of the world for something that’s banned in all these other countries?”

Chinese honey is characteristically contaminated with heavy metals, mainly lead, and illegal antibiotics, such as chloroamphenicol, which can lead to aplastic anemia, a reaction that is fatal in 1 out of every 30,000 people who ingest it. In order to avoid high tariffs on exporting their honey, Chinese manufacturers use this honey laundering technique. They put the honey product through an ultra-filtering process, stripping the honey of its pollen and making it impossible to trace its origins. This ultra-filtering process not only masks the origins of the honey, which is discernable through the pollen, but it also decreases the quality of honey, filtering out nutrients and leaving a product that is barely even considered honey. The end result has no nutrients, no color and no taste. This honey-like substance is then shipped to places like India and Vietnam where it is mixed in with pure honey and exported to countries like the United States.

The Food Safety News reports that some of the largest honey packers in the U.S. are knowingly purchasing mislabeled, “transshipped” or illegally treated honey in order to sell it at a cheaper price. Adee has expressed his concern saying, “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.”

So, where exactly is our honey coming from? Well, due to recent collapses of American honeybee populations, only 48% of honey is produced within the United States. The other 52% is imported from a host of 41 other countries. Of this imported percentage, almost 60% comes from Asian countries such as India and Vietnam, which are typically laundering spots for Chinese honey—a huge red flag for the U.S.

In this case, the FDA simply is not doing its job. According to FDA press officer Tamara Ward, “We have not halted any importation of honey because we have yet to detect ultra-filtered honey. If we do detect ultra-filtered honey we will refuse entry.” Most honey brokers responded by saying the FDA simply is not looking hard enough. The FDA does not have the equipment necessary to test honey for ultra-filtering, and thus does not want to find it.

Border patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Commercial Fraud Units can only do so much. These two departments can enforce the anti-dumping law and tariff violation laws. However, protecting the public from dangerous contaminants in honey and testing for illegal filtering processing is the FDA’s job.

Support the effort to ban honey imports from Asian countries and sign below. It is time the FDA takes this situation seriously and bans or at the very least, halts contaminated honey imports from China, India and Vietnam.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Food & Drug Administration,

Over one-third of the honey consumed in the United States comes from China, by way of India or Vietnam. Chinese honey is characteristically contaminated with heavy metal toxins and illegal animal antibiotics.

Honey from these countries is already banned in the European Union for such reasons. Why do we continue to accept honey from these countries while knowing that American citizens consume 400 million pounds of honey each year? The fact of the matter is this honey is unsafe for consumption, and should not be allowed in the U.S.

Please take this matter seriously. There is a reason Europe has already banned honey from Asian countries such as China, India and Vietnam. The FDA needs to follow Europe’s lead and stop all imports from these countries until the honey is deemed safe.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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5 Comments

  1. It is my understanding that the US already bans Chinese honey. But as you mention the resources are not there to test the honey being imported at the port.

    The real issue is that American consumers want to pay so little for goods. They tend to value savings over quality or cleanliness. The economic driving force causes large processed food manufacturers to seek the cheapest alternative.

    Until the American consumer demands better ingredients from those they buy food from, little will change.

    • Callie Brazil Callie Brazil says:

      I don’t think the U.S. bans Chinese honey quite yet. I know the FDA bans the animal antibiotic, chloramphenicol, which is found in Chinese honey. This is why Chinese honey manufacturers use “honey laundering”–to avoid high U.S. tariffs on honey imports and to get away with exporting honey with this dangerous chemical in it. Regardless, this stuff needs to find its way off of our shelves.

  2. I agree, it has no place here. It drives down the price of quality honey and beekeepers have a hard time competing against those prices. Personally I don’t think they should try. You are right. It isn’t banned here, but it should be. Are you aware of http://www.truesourcehoney.com/ ? They try to insure 100% trace-ability of American sold honey. I think this and a ban would be very effective in keeping Chinese honey out of the US. I have no proof, but I believe that most of that junk honey ends up in processed foods such as breads, drinks, cereals, granola bars, and snacks etc. If this is true, it would be harder to determine with testing than liquid honey is. Thank for the article and the call to action. I’ve shared it with everyone I know.

  3. I agree, it has no place here. It drives down the price of quality honey and beekeepers have a hard time competing against those prices. Personally I don’t think they should try. You are right. It isn’t banned here, but it should be. Are you aware of http://www.truesourcehoney.com/ ? They try to insure 100% trace-ability of American sold honey. I think this and a ban would be very effective in keeping Chinese honey out of the US. I have no proof, but I believe that most of that junk honey ends up in processed foods such as breads, drinks, cereals, granola bars, and snacks etc. If this is true, it would be harder to determine with testing than liquid honey is. Thank for the article and the call to action. I’ve shared it with everyone I know.

    • Callie Brazil Callie Brazil says:

      I’ve definitely heard of truesourcehoney.com and they’re doing a great job ensuring that honey is legitimate. Any honey coming from them or any “certified organic” honey is safe for consumption. The contaminated honey is basically only the kind found in the little jars shaped like bears. Thank you for the support! Hopefully as a collective group of informed consumers we can get this stuff banned.

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