Sunday, August 21, 2011


It is common knowledge that healthy bees give safe quality honey. The skewed attitude on the part of honey processors to be smug in the feeling that good processing technology can convert even bad quality honey into good products is fraught with dangerous implications. Food industry, managed well, employing qualified food technologists, will never subscribe to the above view and it is a universally accepted truth that only good quality feed material can give high quality end product. When it comes to international trading in processed foods quality and safety can never be compromised and it is only to ensure smooth trade between countries that various safety certification procedures have been evolved. That China, whether with the connivance of the government or without the knowledge of the authorities, happens to be a source of adulterated and contaminated foods, is a fact that cannot be denied outright and "Honey Laundering" is another blot on the credentials of its industry. Look at the way Chinese does this "circus" to hoodwink the world!

"This is a serious issue because China has a monumental problem with its honey industry. A bee epidemic in China several years ago led beekeepers there to use an antibiotic that the U.S. FDA has banned in food and that has been linked to DNA damage in children. And as FSN observes, though China has a state-of-the-art honey processing industry, its beekeeping has not kept up -- resulting, for example, in some Chinese honey being contaminated with lead from the use of improper storage containers. Even worse, Chinese honey brokers have been known to create counterfeit product made of "a mix of sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery [a type of unrefined sugar], barley malt sweetener or other additives with a bit of actual honey." A label is slapped on the container and the adulterated honey is shipped through another country -- for the most part, India -- before finally making its way to the US. Much of this came out two years ago during a major government investigation into "honey laundering" (that's when I first heard the term). But the resulting arrests didn't do much to halt the illegal activities. For all of the above reasons, honey from India is already banned in the European Union, and it's supposed to be illegal to import food into the U.S. that's been banned in other countries. However, the FDA response has been muted. A representative told FSN that the agency "would not know about honey that has been banned from other countries," but experts and other federal agencies believe that's because the FDA refuses to look. Indeed, the FDA appears to have adopted the policy the Pentagon just dropped: Don't ask, don't tell. And it's not just outside experts who are alarmed at FDA's lackadaisical approach to honey laundering. FDA is supposed to be working with U.S. Customs officials to crack down on this practice. Yet, according to FSN, Customs investigators claim that the cooperation is more on paper than in practice and that the FDA continues to be the weak link. They say the FDA either doesn't have the resources to properly do the job or is unwilling to commit them. ICE and the border patrol can and do go after the honey launderers by enforcing the anti-dumping and tariff violation laws. But protecting consumers from dangerous honey, identifying it as adulterated and therefore illegal for importation, falls to the FDA. And many of its enforcement colleagues say the food safety agency doesn't see this as a priority"

While the antibiotic tainted Honey was detected in many markets around the world, the recent finding that "artificial" honey made from sugar is being traded raises more concerns and it is a shame that the source of such products has been traced to China. It is understandable that honey producers may have to use antibiotics to treat sick bees to protect their business from ruin but this is a practice not accepted by the world community considering the risks of development of resistance to antibiotics by the humans. But cheating the consumers through corrupt practices like making and selling artificial honey claiming it to be genuine must be condemned with no uncertain terms. This is all the more reprehensible considering that Chinese honey makers or brokers are in nexus with other lumpen elements in about a dozen "decent" countries for marketing their products through them under their country label. It is imperative for countries like the US to stop this charade to protect their citizens from such a fraud, not withstanding its "love" for China!

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