December 30, 2008

Honey importing becomes ‘nasty’

The seemingly simple business of importing honey has become so rife with international intrigue that one U.S. broker said he was leaving the business.

It's become so difficult in terms of risk to rewards "¦ I don't want to take the chance anymore, said Rainier Cascade, Wash., honey broker Bob Coyle, a member of the National Honey Board.

The import business is plagued with a transshipping, a practice of shipping honey to a benign port and re-labeling its origin to avoid testing or tariffs, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Tuesday.

The Commerce Department's International Trade Commission imposed a duty of $1.20 a pound on Chinese honey eight years ago, after the county was judged to be dumping the product at less than market value. Chinese honey has also been found tainted with an antibiotic, chloramphenicol, which can be deadly to humans in rare cases.

Investigators from departments as diverse as Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs and the Food and Drug Administration have become involved in the issue, the newspaper said.

There's more crooks than ever, and it has become a real nasty business, said Elise Gagnon, president of Odem International, a Canadian honey importer.