Safeguarding consumers from imported honey

I believe that the establishment of a national standard of identity for honey is important in order to protect our Nation’s domestic honey industry and to protect American consumers.  The United States imports nearly 70% of its honey.  Imported honey is a significant ingredient in a wide variety of food products, including bread, cereal, and beverages.  Honey is also an ingredient in health and beauty products. 

Some foreign honey importers have developed schemes to circumvent American antidumping policies.  These schemes are serious.  During August 2010, eleven individuals and six corporations were indicted by federal officials for allegedly participating in an international conspiracy to illegally import honey from China that was mislabeled as coming from other countries to avoid antidumping duties.  They were also importing honey that was adulterated with antibiotics not approved for use in honey production.  In order to ensure the safety of America’s food supply and protect consumers, the establishment of a national standard of identity for honey is imperative.  When Americans purchase honey, they should expect a product made by honeybees, not filled with syrup additives or contaminants.

In July 2009, I gathered the bipartisan support of eleven other Senators and sent a letter to Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The letter urged the FDA to adopt a national standard of identity for honey as soon as possible. I have repeatedly called on the FDA to adopt a national standard of identity for honey.  The FDA should listen to the bipartisan support for this effort and give people confidence in what they eat.

Additionally, during the past two years, three states have enacted their own standards of identity.  If producers need to make honey to different specifications, these different standards would be a burden.  The FDA should adopt a federal standard in order to lift this burden from the states and avoid confusion.