Last week, federal officials indicted six companies and eleven individuals on charges of participating in an international honey smuggling operation. The ten Germans and one Chinese national have been accused of conspiring to illegally import $40m worth of Chinese honey into the United States between 2002 and 2009 – including some allegedly contaminated with disallowed antibiotics – in order to avoid antidumping duties of $78m.
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.
Spokesperson for True Source Honey Jill Clark said: “A lot of wonderful work is underway to ensure that the honey US consumers enjoy is legally sourced and of high quality. We need people to ask where the honey they enjoy is coming from-whether it's from the jar or used in a cereal, salad dressing, beverage, power bar or other food product. And we need food manufacturers to examine how they're sourcing honey."
Last week’s action by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement was the latest indictment in a wave of crackdowns from the federal agency aimed at stemming the flow of illegal honey into the United States.
"This is the kind of pressure we need to correct the serious problem of illegally traded honey, which is threatening the continued viability of the US honey sector," Clark said.
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. Currently the duty stands at $2.06 a kilogram.
The True Source Honey initiative has published a reference guide for food manufacturers to enable them to check their honey sourcing. It is available online via this link.