The Issue

Valued as a natural, healthful and delicious food, honey has long been treasured by Americans. Growing demand for honey has for some time been fulfilled by both domestic and imported sources, most of high quality and ethical origins. But sustaining quality honey supplies to U.S. customers and consumers is increasingly challenging. Because of growing demand, and damage to U.S. bee colonies from colony collapse disorder, an increasing amount of honey must be imported.

U.S. antidumping duties and quality controls are in place to protect U.S. consumers – and honey companies – from often cheaper and less regulated honey products from abroad. However, some honey brokers and importers illegally circumvent these restrictions, selling honey to U.S. companies that is of questionable origin and which threatens the U.S. honey industry by undercutting fair market prices and damaging honey's reputation for purity and safety. Specifically, honey originating from China is being transshipped through other countries to avoid U.S. trade duties. The True Source Honey initiative estimates that the U.S. loses about $100 million a year in uncollected duties because of illegal honey imports.

As honey companies are undercut by these illegal imports, ethical U.S. companies and beekeepers find it harder to compete. Quality U.S. honey operations are essential not just to produce high-quality honey supplies, but also for the honeybees needed to pollinate dozens of fruit, vegetable and seed crops across the United States.

And strides have been made to protect the honey supply. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have taken significant steps to thwart illegal trade of honey, including the seizure of more than 10 million pounds of rice syrup in 2011-2012 destined for sale as pure honey. In addition to enforcement and prosecutions at the federal level, many states have passed standards of identity intended to protect the integrity of honey.

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