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Honey laundering trails all lead to China


Table of Contents:

  • Honey, due to foreign imports, is one of the most tainted foods in America, and China has a sticky finger in almost every pot. The fix is in and China has essentially set up a network of honey chop shops to the tune of billions in profit.

Grab the bear bottle of honey off the Walmart shelf and have a look. By appearance, the honey looks golden and wholesome. The beehive the honey came from may contain 60,000 honey bees; and those same bees probably tapped over a million flowers to make it. Odds are the honey is golden and sweet — but about as pure as the bottom of the Chinese barrel it shipped in.

Honey, due to foreign imports, is one of the most tainted foods in America, and China has a sticky finger in almost every pot. The fix is in and China has essentially set up a network of honey chop shops to the tune of billions in profit. Honey counterfeiting is not just “under-the-table business as usual,” but relates directly to U.S. food security issues. Honey bees pollinate $20 billion worth of American crops each year — and a strong honey industry is vital to the U.S. food supply.

Americans consume more honey than any nation on Earth — over 400 million pounds a year when home/restaurant use, baked items, and processed foods are all factored in. But the U.S. honey industry meets less than half of the demand, and that’s where China, the world’s No. 1 honey producer, factors in.

In 2001, the U.S. claimed China was dumping on the American market and hit Chinese honey with a major tariff — $1.20 per pound. It wasn’t only a matter of protecting U.S. producers — the Chinese honey was, and is, “dirty.” The laundered Chinese honey often contains harmful antibiotics, lead, molasses, fructose, farm chemicals, or whatever masking agent the Chinese will think up next.

Yet, even with a laundry list of harmful ingredients and a $1.20 duty, Chinese honey is still on American grocery shelves and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Despite the tariff, China runs a cartel of global honey laundering — a kingpin’s world of shady middlemen, unknown ingredients, doctored labels, fake manifests, and heavyweight corporate execs. China’s underground honey operation is a billion-dollar success and ranks as one of the most profitable food scams in history.


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Sidestepping the $1.20 tariff, China sends its honey to a long list of Asian countries (particularly India) not subject to the U.S. import penalty. The Chinese honey is then given fake labels and point-of-origin documents, routinely repackaged and mixed with other honey, loaded on containers, and dropped into the U.S. market. The chop shop approach often results in ultra-filtrated honey: Pollen traces are literally removed, making the honey untraceable. But the process also leaves the honey devoid of color and taste. Solution? The chop shops just stir in extra honey made in India or Vietnam.

Discuss this Blog Entry 7

John Dangereaux (not verified)
on Jan 8, 2013

The government does or doesn't (as in this case) do things that will raise the price of food. Those in charge are happy for this, food prices are kept down. The Bee industry is sacrificed for the "greater good" in my opinion.
The Chinese are to blame for sure. But haven't we learned the Chinese are ruthless and can't be trusted?!?
This is the fault of A:Government Officials top to bottom and B:a Broke and Stupid US consumer(which has been caused by "A"!!!)
'Reset' time, people!

ZeroSum2 (not verified)
on Jan 8, 2013

John, you may be right - but unless the government does intervene in cases like this, the Chinese will continue to do their smoke and mirrors operations. Ultimately, it is both the American producers and the American consumers who suffer.

Cam (not verified)
on Jan 8, 2013

By American and tell your grocery store to get the crap off the shelf! Buying local honey may be one way to guarantee its U.S. honey.

on Jan 9, 2013

Orange blossoms honey can replace Chinese "syrup." Stop seedless business kicking bees from collecting citrus honey. Then beekeepers in California will fill shelves with honey with better taste and quality and customers will make choice.

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on May 14, 2013

Food watchdogs have ordered all Chinese-produced honey to be withdrawn from sale after trials found that much of it is contaminated by antibiotics.
Forty per cent of the honey sold in the US comes from China. Tests of 16 pots found that ten contained the powerful antibiotic chloramphenicol.
The chemical is a trigger for aplastic anaemia, a rare but serious blood disorder which affects up to 100 people in Britain each year. It has also been linked to leukaemia.

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