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.