Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Caveat Emptor - Support Your Local Beekeeper

Recent shipments of honey have been tested and found wanting. Adulterated with corn syrup and sugar water and containing toxins banned in the US, often this honey originates in China, and then is "laundered" through other countries to get around trade restrictions. However, many consumers avoid purchasing foreign honey for health and safety reasons as well, preferring to avoid agricultural products from countries where nasty chemicals, long banned in the US, are in common use. And while you can wash those chemicals off your imported produce, you can't get them out of honey.

This is what happened recently, when a sting (so sorry) was conducted on a honey producer in Washington State. Records showed that some of the Chinese honey was headed to our very own Sue Bee Honey, headquartered in Sioux City, Iowa. To be fair, Sue Bee folks were duped. They weren't trying to buy Chinese honey. But when asked, producers will state that they count on the USDA to ensure that the honey that is imported (and please take note of that - Sue Bee did intend to buy imported honey, just not Chinese honey). However, the USDA inspects a only tiny, tiny fraction of honey imported into this country. And when shipments as large as 1.7 million liters are involved, how could they possibly check everything?

Subjects of the sting admitted selling tainted Chinese honey to US honey suppliers, including one located in Wisconsin. The only answer is to buy locally produced honey from small producers, until the USDA develops reliable processes for detecting adulterated and contaminated honey imports.

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