Honey Laundering - Honey Smuggling

This morning my sister and I were talking about the new and wonderful uses for honey but as we researched on the internet, Carol saw several articles about honey coming from China that is not only illegal by disguising where it is coming from but also is possibly tainted with heavy metals, like lead, and illegal antibiotics .

Green plants

Why would there be antibiotics in Chinese honey?  Around 2001 a bacterial infection spread through the hives in China killing tens of millions of bees. To combat this the beekeepers used antibiotics including the illegal chloramphenicol, an antibiotic that is banned in food in the U.S. because of findings that children exposed to this are susceptible to “DNA damage and carcinogenicity”, according to Food Safety News. The amounts are miniscule but it's one more thing if you know what I mean.

Why is there lead in Chinese honey? Many of the thousands of small beekeepers in China are using lead soldered drums to store their honey in. Obviously, lead is a very serious concern, especially for children.

It seems that in 2001 the U.S. Commerce Department, concerned that the Chinese cheap honey would put U.S. beekeepers out of business, imposed a stiff tariff on honey coming from China to discourage the Chinese from selling in the U.S. What Chinese beekeepers did then was to send their honey to a different country first (many times, India) therefore skirting the tariff. So now we don’t know where the honey comes from and much of it presumably comes from China.

There was a big crackdown over the last two years when the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FDA indicted several international companies with smuggling honey into the U.S. from China. By saying the honey came from a different country other than China, they avoided paying the hefty tariffs. However, according to Food Safety News millions of pounds of honey continue to come into the U.S. from unknown sources.
As if this wasn’t enough some honey has been found to be composed of rice, corn, and sugar syrup with only a small amount of actual honey.
To read the entire story (and it’s fascinating) you can read the article from Food Safety News.

There’s always lots of bees on these pond flowers. Do you think I had a picture with a bee? NOT!
purple pond plants

According to npr.org what further complicates things is that the pollen is many times filtered out of the honey. The presence of pollen makes it easy to trace the country of origin. Pollen is like a finger print. It is so specific that it can detect where exactly the honey comes from. But if the pollen is filtered out it becomes more difficult to determine the country of origin.

This means one thing to me:  Buy local honey where you know it comes from.... bees near you (but not too near – ha ha)  I still have a bottle of honey left from a neighbor who had bee hives. He no longer has them (the bees flew away) and the honey has crystallized which is fine by me because it has more texture. I love eating it like that. If your honey has crystallized and you don’t like it that way, you can put it in warm water to return it to it's liquid state.

What is honey? It’s a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. Wikipedia definition.

It’s a perfect, pure food (if you get it locally. :) It rarely goes bad because of its low water content and it has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Honey can be put directly on wounds as an antibacterial agent.

Using honey for allergies is well known. (However, if one is allergic to bees or pollen  -  be CAUTIOUS or AVOID ENTIRELY).

Honey and lemon can be used for colds and sore throats.

Honey has a low glycemic index ranking which means it doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels. It gives energy but doesn’t cause a crash in blood sugar.

It can be used for diverticulitis and stomach issues because of the antibiotic action.

Condition hair by mixing honey with olive oil.

You have only to do a Google search to find out all the amazing things that honey is used for.

CAUTION: Babies under 1 year should not have raw honey.

Best wishes,


P.S. Another word of caution: don't eat honey from a spoon like you would eat pudding or jello. I did that once and I choked on it and I thought I was going to die because I couldn't catch my breath. The sweetness was at the back of my throat. That was when I was in my 20's and I've never forgotten it. In the spasms of coughing and trying to breathe I had the bright idea that maybe a drink of water would help. It did. It took a long time for me to settle down, though.  I've heard other stories about people choking on honey, too. It's serious stuff.  It's better to put honey on toast or crackers when eating it. Safer.

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  1. I've used honey through the years and have a bottle in my cupboard. It's bad news to hear of this smuggling and the tainted product. With my allergies this year, I've been thinking about sourcing a local honey, it's supposed to help with allergies if it's created closer to home.

    Great info, Linda.

  2. Who would have guessed all that about honey!? Thanks for sharing the info.


  3. Local is definitely the way to go! The more local the better! We've linked to articles about honey laundering many times. More people need to be aware!

    Another concern is that often commercial produced honey is nothing more than High Fructose Corn Syrup. Instead of letting bees roam and look for flowers (as bees are meant to do!) bee keepers force feed HFCS to the bees to increase production. So the result is a bottle of pretty worthless stuff, instead of the lovely, nutrient packed, allergy fighting, natural miracle food that is HONEY!

    So, stick with local--a farm you can visit and see what they do!


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I am the crafter extraordinaire (on this blog anyway.) I live with my husband, my son, David, in a cozy cape cod style house in Connecticut.

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