Two of the U.S. largest’s honey processing companies have admitted to illegally buying millions of dollars of cheap honey from China. Like the scandal about incorrectly labeled meat in Europe, the charges against the U.S. honey packs are a case of misleading, if not simply deceptive, labeling of food.
The Case of the Doctored Honey
The two companies charged are Groeb Farms of Onsted, Michigan, and Honey Solutions, a large industrial supplier of honey based in Baytown, Texas. Also charged are five individuals including Douglas A. Murphy, the former director of sales for Honey Holding, which did business under the name of Honey Solutions. Both companies face criminal charges and have already struck deals (including agreeing to setting up programs to ensure all of their honey comes from legitimate producers in the future) to avoid immediate prosecution.
Starting in 2001, honey from China has been subjected to stringent “anti-dumping” duties — a hefty 221 percent of the declared value — after U.S. honey makers raised an outcry over Chinese imports that were being sold at suspiciously low prices. As the recent suit reveals, Chinese producers have sought to work around these fees by shipping their honey to middlemen in other countries including Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam. There, the honey is relabeled as originating from those countries and sent onto the U.S.
Honey imported by Groeb Farms and Honey Solutions was also shipped in containers labeled as other products, such as rice syrup. Even more, some of the honey was found to be adulterated with antibiotics that are not approved for use in honey in the U.S. One drug, Chloramphenicol, is used to treat serious infections in humans but is not approved for use in honey; in 2002, the FDA issued an import alert about it.
Phthalates Found In Readily Available Foods
Another new study reminds us that the ingredients label on a food product does not list “everything” in it. The study reveals that industrial chemicals — phthalates, which have been linked to abnormalities in the male reproductive system — have been found in “common foods” available in the U.S. Specifically, researchers found phthalate contamination in 72 foods commonly consumedby many Americans — pizza, meats and beverages — from supermarkets in Albany, New York.
The phthalates were not added to the foods but may well have gotten into them via the packaging, says lead investigator Arnold Schecter of the The University of Texas School of Public Health Dallas Regional. That is, not only can packaging misleading about the food inside it. The packaging itself might be causing chemicals to get into the food inside — should whatever materials it is made of also be listed?
If you need a reason to buy local and know what is in the food you will put in your body, look no further than this case of the doctored honey and the discovery of industrial chemicals in supermarket foods. Is it too much to ask food manufacturers to make sure the ingredients listed on a label are actually what is in their products?
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