Honey Laundering

Grist picked up a story today from the Food Safety News about an investigation showing that a third or more of all the honey consumed in the US is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.  The disturbing article is about elaborate criminal schemes in which cheap, artificial, diluted or even contaminated honey from China is brought into the US after it has been laundered in another country (often Malaysia, Thailand, India, Australia, Indonesia) to disguise its origin and evade tariffs and health inspections.

What was really striking to me is that this is not news – it has been going on for almost ten years (just search online for “honey laundering”). It is not news to FDA either – they have even indicted about a dozen chief executives for honey smuggling. One of the earlier great investigations is done by Jessica Leeder for The Globe and Mail.

The issue is really sticky and I recommend reading one or two of the articles.

The important question is what are the implications for out global food system. Do we just need to ditch BigBrickGrocery and head to the local organic farmer’s market? For honey, it might be easy (although, the US might need to cut their consumption, as currently about half is imported). But could we ALL (7 billion) go to the local organic farmer for rice, potatoes, meat, fruits, vegetables? And why would we trust one grocery store but not the other? Does organic/local equal trustworthy?

I think we need a better understanding and transparency of the global supply chain. Businesses need to step up and show responsibility. Maybe link authenticity with quality competition between brands and products?

And do we even have 2 kg plastic jugs with “Pure Clover Honey” (great value of under $8 in Walmart)?



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