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Origin certification scheme launched to combat ‘honey laundering’

1 commentBy Caroline Scott-Thomas , 14-Jan-2011

A coalition organization of honey companies and importers has revealed a new initiative to certify the origin of US honey in an effort to ensure product purity and safety.

A group of US honey companies formed True Source Honey in 2008 in an effort to prevent illegally imported honey from entering the US market, to raise awareness of the issue, and to help safeguard the integrity of the domestic honey supply. It estimates that the US lost up to $106m last year in uncollected duties due to illegal honey imports.

Under the new voluntary certification scheme, True Source Honey has appointed the third party audit firm Intertek to conduct initial audits of interested honey companies starting this month. Intertek will then follow up with unannounced inspections, reviewing documents and collecting samples for country-of-origin verification, in an effort to end the problem of illegally sourced honey.

“Cheap illegal imports hurt all legitimate US packers and beekeepers," said president of the American Beekeeping Federation David Mendes.

Chinese honey imported to the US is subject to antidumping duties to ensure it does not unfairly reduce competition, as it is lower in price than what is normally paid domestically. In an effort to avoid these duties, some suppliers have been accused of falsifying documents for Chinese-sourced honey in other Southeast Asian countries before shipping it to the United States, thereby impeding product traceability.

A wave of arrests has been made in recent years, including in September last year when ten Germans and one Chinese national were accused of conspiring to illegally import $40m worth of Chinese honey between 2002 and 2009 – including some allegedly contaminated with disallowed antibiotics – in order to avoid antidumping duties of $78m.

The True Source Certified program has been designed to be consistent with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent refocusing on a more preventative approach to food safety, including new import safety requirements outlined in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.

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Inexpensive Stable Isotope Analysis Solves the Mystery

An inexpensive and fast screening method using Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy can detect origin of and any adulteration in honey and other food substances routinely.

Honey has 15 to 20% water content. By extracting the water and studying stable isotope ratios of Hydrogen and Oxygen provides clues to origin information. Isotope ratio of Carbon in honey helps screen for adulteration with other sugars.

Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy based equipment from Picarro are easy to use and come with sample handling to address these issues.

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Posted by Sarvesh Jagannivas
14 January 2011 | 18h36

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