The last eight years1 have not been good for regulatory consumer protection. The FDA is in need of some serious mission change – Obama’s new team has their work cut out for them. Case in point: honey laundering, as Andrew Schneider of the Seattle PI reports. The US imports a lot of honey from China, and it is often contaminated with chloramphenicol or some other antibiotic that is illegal in any food product. The FDA doesn’t seem too concerned, nor does Congress.
Two-thirds of the honey Americans consume is imported and almost half of that, regardless of what’s on the label, comes from China, the Seattle P-I reported last month.
The newspaper’s five-month investigation into honey laundering — the intentional mislabeling of the country of origin — found that tons of Chinese honey coming into the U.S. is tainted with banned antibiotics.
But when the contamination is discovered by the industry through internal testing, insiders say, federal health or customs officials are almost never notified, and the honey ends up being dumped back on the market.
Even the tiny percentage of honey that is inspected is frequently tainted, but it doesn’t get destroyed on the spot.
“We don’t want to risk this tainted honey ever getting packed and distributed for human consumption,” said Haff [newly elected president of American Honey Producers], who believes the industry could solve the problem if companies simply alert the Food and Drug Administration each time they discover a tainted shipment.
Instead, some major packers simply return bad honey to the importer, naively trusting them to destroy the shipment and not seek another buyer.
Said Haff: “We run the risk of the importer trying to resell this same adulterated honey for a cheaper price somewhere else.”
That happens all too often. Court documents the P-I obtained after the arrests last year of two Chicago-based executives with Alfred L. Wolff, a German food distributor, reveal how rampant the sale and resale of bad honey is.
Testimony from federal investigators and informants offer a glimpse into a typical deal: Wolff sold Chinese honey to a U.S. honey producer. The packer tested the shipment and found traces of antibiotics. Wolff took the honey back and resold it to another packer who didn’t test for contaminants.
If convicted, the Wolff executives face up to five years in prison for conspiring to falsify country of origin on the Chinese shipments.
In its series, the P-I reported that it had received shipping papers showing that Chinese honey, falsely labeled as a product of India, was sold to several U.S. honey packers, including one of the nation’s largest — Sue Bee Honey Association.
About 2 years ago, we started using agave-based honey instead, lower glycemic index, dissolves easier, tastes as good as regular honey. There could be problems with it too, but since it is a more specialized food, perhaps not.
Anyway, the US food supply has been seriously corrupted by producers like Sue Bee Honey and their enablers at the FDA and other agencies. Disgusting, really.
Read more of the Seattle PIs exposé, including the revelation that the FDA turns a blind eye to the practice of unloading foreign honey of indeterminate origin and dubious quality across the border in Canada. The honey merchants wink at the FDA, and ship the honey through the lightly-regulated NAFTA loop-hole, claiming the honey is now magically “Canadian” because it sat in a Canadian warehouse for a couple of hours.Footnotes:
- well, really last 16 years, plus the four years of Bush the Smarter and eight years of Reagan before [↩]