Washington, DC- Today U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a federal standard of identity for honey as countries like China continue to smuggle potentially unsafe honey into the United States. Pennsylvania has a significant presence in the honey industry, providing a home to 13,000 colonies of bees that produced 585,000 pounds of honey with a value of $1.74 million in 2013. The industry also has a long history in Pennsylvania. Dutch Gold Honey, a packer established in 1946 in Lancaster, is the largest family-owned honey company in the United States and is the originator of the idea for the squeezable honey bear.
“It’s simply unacceptable that countries like China continue to cheat the system. China’s cheating, whether it’s smuggling honey or manipulating currency, has a serious impact on jobs and economic growth in Pennsylvania,” said Senator Casey. “That is why I’m calling on the FDA to implement a federal standard of identity for honey that ensures that our honey is safe for consumers, and levels the playing field for Pennsylvania honey producers.”
Chinese importers use an array of tactics to avoid duties and are constantly adapting their behavior to stay one step ahead of Customs. For example, importers of Chinese goods have claimed a country of origin that has no commercial honey production, or labeled their honey products as blended syrup. According to analysis by the domestic honey industry, these practices have resulted in losses of $100 million a year since 2008.
The text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:
Dear Commissioner Hamburg:
I write to express my strong support regarding the need to implement a federal standard of identity for honey. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a significant presence in the honey industry, providing a home to 13,000 colonies of bees that produced 585,000 pounds of honey with a value of $1.74 million in 2013.
In December 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report, as mandated by language that I pushed for in the 2014 Farm Bill, which determined that a Federal standard of identity for honey would be in the interest of consumers, the honey industry and U.S. agriculture. The report showed strong support for efforts to clarify the definition of honey to provide honesty for consumers, combat adulteration of honey by supporting enforcement and compliance efforts, and promote fair dealing within the food trade.
Countries like China continue to smuggle potentially unsafe honey into the U.S., which has a serious impact on jobs and economic growth in Pennsylvania and other states. In January 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that agents have seized since October 2014 illegally imported Chinese honey valued at $2.45 million destined for U.S. consumers. As the FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety and integrity of much of the Nation’s food supply, a Federal standard of identity would protect producers and consumers in Pennsylvania and across the Nation from substandard or falsely labeled honey.
In addition, in the absence of a federal standard, a number of States have created their own standard of identity for honey. This patchwork of regulations places a burden on small producers who must comply with various requirements on a State-by-State basis. Consumers should be able to trust the safety and purity of honey regardless of where they live.
I once again strongly urge the FDA to establish a standard of identity for honey, a tool which will promote honesty and fair dealing and serve the interest of consumers and Pennsylvania’s honey industry.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator