‘Honey Laundering: An International Scandal”

Picture: Jacopo Werther (CC)

Via Mother Nature Network

Food experts have found that much of the honey sold in the U.S. is a concoction of corn or rice syrup, malt sweeteners and a small amount of genuine honey.

There might be something funny in your honey.

Food-safety experts have found that much of the honey sold in the United States isn’t actually honey, but a concoction of corn or rice syrup, malt sweeteners or “jiggery” (cheap, unrefined sugar), plus a small amount of genuine honey, according to Wired UK.

Worse, some honey — much of which is imported from Asia — has been found to contain toxins like lead and other heavy metals, as well as drugs like chloramphenicol, an antibiotic, according to a Department of Justice news release.

And because cheap honey from China was being dumped on the U.S. market at artificially low prices, Chinese honey is now subject to additional import duties. So Chinese exporters simply ship their honey to Thailand or other countries, where it is relabeled to hide its origins, according to NPR.org.

This international “honey-laundering” scandal has now resulted in a Justice Department indictment of two U.S. companies and the charging of five people with selling mislabeled honey that also contained chloramphenicol.

Honey Solutions of Baytown, Texas, and Groeb Farms of Onsted, Mich., have agreed to pay millions of dollars in fines and implement corporate compliance measures following a lengthy Justice Department investigation. [The Science of Food: 10 Odd Facts]

“This is a huge deal for the industry. This is the first admission by a U.S. packer,” of knowingly importing mislabeled honey, Eric Wenger, chairman of True Source Honey, told NPR. True Source Honey is an industry consortium with an auditing system to guarantee the actual origin of honey.

Honey isn’t the only food product subject to impurities and mislabeling. Olive oil is often cut with cheaper oils and sold at premium prices, a practice that’s expected to expand as a shortage of the oil (caused by a 2012 drought in southern Europe) hits global markets.

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  • Charlie Primero

    Grocery store honey tastes like the molasses syrup they feed cattle. Real honey is freakin awesome. I buy six pounds a year from http://www.roundrockhoney.com outside Austin. Tastes like sweet flowers, and makes your peener grow big.

    • Jin The Ninja

      i agree that it’s awesome (real honey), but i am highly skeptical of the last claim:P

    • Topazmoon11

      But I don’t want a big peener!! Better stick to 100%v pure and unadulterated Vermont Maple syrup! :D

  • sveltesvengali

    Already heard about this via Cracked a while ago…still glad to see the word is getting out, though.

  • BuzzCoastin

    > honey sold in the U.S. is a concoction of corn or rice syrup

    corn is now an ingredient in all food that is processed, organic or otherwise
    sugar & honey have been replace by HFCS, derived from mostly Grade#2 corn
    any food that’s not a whole food and not bought from someone you know
    is most likely a Jetson’s food pill disguised as something that looks like food

  • echar

    Does Walmart have anything to do with this?

    • Topazmoon11

      I have been seeing something called “honey syrup” being sold at the grocery stores including Walmart in plastic bears along side the honey — made from hf corn syrup. Damn.

  • http://www.facebook.com/padma.drago Padma Drago

    Is there an analytic test one can do at home?

  • David Duke-Astin

    why does honey imported from Asia contain lead and drugs? Doesn’t that increase the costs? It would be cheaper to not put those things in the food, right?

    • Jin The Ninja

      lead from industrial pollutants in the air, which is absorbed by flowers and in turn insects.
      anti-biotics to make the bees live longer, in worse conditions.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevebenson/ Stephen Benson

        I think it was humour. Quite droll, I thought.

        • Jin The Ninja

          it was.

        • Jin The Ninja

          it was.

    • caphillprof

      Actually this article is very poorly written. It doesn’t really say that it is the Asian honey that contains toxins, lead, heavy metals and drugs. It simply says that some honey has been found to contain toxins, lead, heavy metals or drugs and also says that a lot of honey is imported from Asia. What it doesn’t say is that the Asian honey is tested by the FDA as it comes in.

      The bigger issue is what happens to Asian honey AFTER it enters the US and US concerns then adulterate it with corn or rice syrup, malt sweeteners and/or unrefined sugar. This is not much different than grocery stores selling maple flavored syrup next to actual maple syrup (or your house keeper watering down the Scotch).

      Mixed in to this story is American honey producers putting up trade barriers against Chinese honey to maintain artificially high honey prices in the U.S. market. It’s in the interest of both Chinese producers and American Wholesalers to divert Chinese honey into Southeast Asia and other markets to avoid the high tariff. This hurts neither the Chinese, nor the American wholesalers, only American producers who seek a higher than market price.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gingarogers Regina Rogers

      They don’t PUT the lead and other toxins in…this sort of thing usually happens when quality control is absent…and food products are exposed to heavy based metals and such. Food regulation in China is horrible, and when we buy food products from there, you never know what the quality is like. Plus….money is king especially in china now, so they opt for the cheapest way to make profit. Quality control/regulation costs a lot of money.

  • jnana

    only deregulation can solve our problems.
    at least, that’s what the Tea Party told me, and they love their honey

  • jnana

    just don’t get Agave Syrup as a replacement. From what I’ve heard it’s just as bad as HFCS.

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