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Americans have a special taste for sweet things including honey. Today it is estimated that they consume in excess of 400 million pounds of this commodity annually. About 75% of this honey is for industrial use while the remaining 35% is for domestic, and hotel consumption. Many large companies use honey in sauces, cereals, beverages and baked products. Over the last decade, the United States has not been producing enough honey for its consumers as a result of habitat degradation, misuse of insecticides, and climate change and air pollution among other factors. In order to deal with the high demand, the country imports about 350 million pounds of honey from outside our borders every year.
It’s important to us to educate consumers about the benefits of real, local honey as well as the problems that the importation of false and low quality honey has on the bees and beekeepers.
What are some of the problems beekeepers and bees face as a result of this imported honey?
It’s believed that imported honey can contain bacteria and viruses contagions and spur an epidemic on bees here locally. A bacterial infection such as foulbrood disease can kill millions of bees in a very short span of time and actually happened in China a few years ago. Areas known to have foulbrood or other highly contagious diseases could be banned more efficiently if honey was a more regulated import.
The importation of larger amounts of low quality or even fake honey has driven honey prices across the nation down. Consequently, this mass availability of cheap honey is detrimental to hard working beekeepers. In recent years, there have been measures from the U.S Commerce Department to hinder other countries from dumping low quality and cheap honey into the American market. While imposing hefty tariffs on imported honey is a step towards the right direction, it has not stopped smugglers and other players from smuggling cheap honey in the U.S. The best way to battle this is by informing consumers to verify their honey is both real and local.
The high demand for honey has triggered a massive supply of the product and has led to the importation of cheap but low-quality honey into the U.S. Most American beekeepers are concerned that honey suppliers are opting to use all manner of tricks including the use of artificial sweeteners added to the honey in order to make a higher profit and volume. Since there is currently no testing of imported honey to verify its quality and authenticity, it is all too easy for poor quality or even fake honey to be imported and sold in grocery stores.
A high number of local beekeepers have expressed their concerns in regard to the original source of honey that forces them out of business. Chinese honey makers resorted to illegal tactics to mask the origin of their honey – they will send it to countries approved for importation of honey and ship it through those ports instead of directly from China. They will even label their honey from false countries of origin. In addition, it is common for honey to be labeled with misleading information. So, it may be labeled as “local”, “pure”, “raw” or even “organic” when it is none of those things.