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July 22, 2014
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Honey without pollen?; Push for a national standard

A honey bee collects pollen from an Echinacea flower.
TRR photos by Fritz Mayer


Sullivan County producer Jim Kile said heating the honey up as high as the overseas processor do, as high as 160 degrees, ruins the quality and taste and then, “you don’t have honey anymore, you have heated goo.”

Recently, there have been several cases of major companies admitting to trying to avoid paying the high tariff on Chinese honey and have settled with authorities. In February, for instance, the U.S. Justice Department announced that two packers, Honey Holding of Texas, and Groeb Farms of Michigan, two of the nation’s largest honey suppliers, were charged with avoiding $180 million in tariff payments. Honey Holding agreed to pay a $1 million fine, and Groeb agreed to pay $2 million.

Meanwhile, the push to adopt honey standards in other states such as New York and Pennsylvania has stalled. Some of the more influential packers were successful in getting a provision inserted into the 2012 Farm Bill that would have compelled the U.S. Department of Agriculture to force the FDA to adopt a national standard. The Farm Bill was not passed in 2012, and if it is passed at some point in the future, it is not clear what the position of the FDA will be regarding the question of pollen in honey.

Some of the large packers are siding with a definition of honey that does not include pollen, and in which honey that does contain pollen would be the exception rather than the rule.

Many producers would prefer that honey without pollen should not be considered honey at all, but some other product. Pat Bono, second vice president of the Empire State Honey Producers Association, said, “honey has pollen.”

A beekeeper named Nancy Gentry wrote a letter in the American Bee Journal that said, “The mantra of the FDR years, ‘The government is your friend; the government will protect you’ is no more. We live in a global economy where neither the federal nor state governments will ever again, or at least not for a long time, be able to protect their citizenry from those who put our food supply at risk or sell our consumers deceptive products, or in the case of honey, adulterated junk.”