Hoeven, Gillibrand Working to Protect Consumers, U.S. Honey Industry From Mislabeled Products

Unfair Practices by Foreign Companies Mislead Consumers and Strain Multimillion Dollar Honey Industry - Gillibrand, Hoeven Call for Immediate Reform

Washington, D.C. – With deceptive manufacturing practices by foreign companies threatening domestic honey producers, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and John Hoeven called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a national standard of identity for honey. While North Dakota and New York’s honey producers generated $53.4 million in sales in 2009, producers have been strained as cheap, adulterated honey from abroad has inundated the U.S. market.

“New York has some of the nation’s finest honey and hardest working producers,” Senator Gillibrand said. “To protect consumers and safeguard the integrity of honey products, we must adopt a national standard of identity for honey to prevent unscrupulous importers from flooding the market with misbranded honey products. The lack of regulation is a food safety concern and a bane to our honey producers.” 

“North Dakota is the nation’s leading producer of honey, so it’s important that producers in our state and throughout the country are treated well and fairly in the marketplace” Senator Hoeven said. “Preserving the identity of American-made honey gives consumers confidence by assuring them that they are buying a quality product.” 

In a letter to Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the FDA, Senators Hoeven and Gillibrand urged the FDA to take swift action in adopting a national standard of identity. Establishing such a definition of purity will give inspectors the power to stem illicit imports and curb domestic tampering, while providing consumers with more assurance about the quality of honey products on the U.S. market. 

The FDA has established nearly 300 food standards of identity, for everything from grape jelly to maple syrup.  Codifying this standard in U.S. law will allow for a common language for honey to be regulated by the federal government.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, North Dakota’s honey industry is the largest in the nation while New York’s ranked 11th in total production in 2009.

Senators Gillibrand and Hoeven’s full letter to Commissioner Hamburg: 

Dear Commissioner Hamburg, 

            We are writing today to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take immediate action on adopting a “standard of identity” for honey.  We strongly believe that formal guidance about the composition and labeling of honey is needed to protect consumers and the domestic honey industry from misbranded honey and honey-derived products that are currently entering the U.S. market.  

            The American Beekeepers Association and several American honey trade associations first called on the FDA to adopt a standard of identity for honey in March of 2006.  The original petition was tabled and the FDA has yet to take action or set forth a timeline regarding when such a standard might be adopted. 

            In recognition of the extreme importance of adopting this standard, both to protect consumer welfare as well as the viability of the American honey industry, the Senate Committee on Appropriations has called on the FDA to address a standard of identity for honey in the reported agriculture appropriations bills for 2010 and 2011.  In the Fiscal Year 2011 Senate Report, the FDA was directed to respond to the citizen petition from the American Beekeepers Association within six months and provide monthly status reports to the Senate Appropriations Committee on this effort until a response has been provided.   

            We strongly encourage you to take swift action in adopting a national standard of identity for honey and request an update on FDA’s progress in addressing this longstanding request.