Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Honey Laundering

According to a 5-month investigation by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, more than 60% of honey consumed in the US is imported, and about half of that comes from China, but not always directly. Much of the honey from China is first shipped to other Asian and South Pacific countries where it is re-labeled and shipped to the US and other countries, hiding the real country of origin.

The practice is called
'honey laundering'... and it is not only deceptive, but it can be dangerous for the consumer. That's because Chinese honey sometimes contains chloramphenicol, an antibiotic with harsh side effects and illegal in many countries.

An executive for Sue Bee (one of the largest honey packers in the U.S.) told the Seattle P-I that chloramphenicol is detected in honey about once a month. When found, it's sent back to the importer. Bill Allibone, president of Sue Bee, explained that the FDA isn't informed because the company never actually takes ownership of the honey.

"We're assuming that when we reject a load of honey, they'll return it to the people they purchased it from." When Seattle P-I asked Allibone if his company had an obligation to contact the FDA to help protect public health, he said, "It's just not our honey."

Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested several Chinese importers for smuggling millions of dollars worth of honey into the U.S.

My advice? Buy and eat local honey! It's better for you anyway because all the minerals, amino acids, enzymes, etc. have not been destroyed by processing.


  1. Thanks for this interesting, sad post. I am sometimes lured by the cheap prices at Sam's club, to buy honey there. Then I remember that I can buy local honey for just a tiny bit more money. I also like that my local health food store and/or farmer's markets carry a wide variety of local honey and it is fun to taste the different flavors.

  2. Yeah, we do get sucked in when we take our eyes off the goal, don't we? I've never priced honey at Sam's (there isn't one within 40 miles) but I pay $8/quart locally.

  3. Thank you so much for this blog post, Darius!! I shouldn't be surprised at this at all, but it really is maddening.

    I pass by the "bulk honey" at Costco and note the inexpensive price figuring it's all pooled, collected honey gathered from places unknown, but I really didn't think it would hail from China. Disturbing to see how this is being managed.

    So glad I only buy local honey from the organic store near my place.

  4. Thanks, Lynn. Posted comments give me impetus to keep writing!


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