Feb 24 (Reuters) - Honey producers got some sweet news
on Friday when Maryland legislators approved a legal definition
of honey, part of a growing crackdown on fake or impure
Maryland joins Florida, California, Wisconsin, Utah and
Nebraska, which have passed laws creating a standard for pure
honey sold within their borders, said the National Honey Board.
At least another ten states are working on a definition as well.
The law, to take effect on October 1, stipulates that honey
containing flavoring, spices or added ingredients cannot be
labeled "pure honey." It also gives consumers legal recourse if
they discover the sweet substance they purchased is fake.
"We now have a standard for honey that we can use to judge
if the products on the shelves are in violation or not," said
Wayne Esaias, president of the Maryland State Beekeepers
Association, which pushed for the law.
The standard "should help beekeepers, and it should help
consumers," he said.
The honey industry is fearful of imitation honey products
imported from overseas that are sometimes mixed with high
fructose corn syrup, sugar water and other commodities to cut or
stretch the original honey base.
Producers also argue that imported honey may contain
residual antibiotics and pesticides used in hives to kill pests
and control disease.
Beekeepers and honey producers have been lobbying individual
states particularly since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
reviewed the issue and declined to issue a national standard for
honey last year.
"Really, this is a result of the feds' failure to act," said
Maryland state Delegate Kathy Afzali, who sponsored the bill.
She said she has received inquiries from other state capitals
looking to draft similar legislation.
According to the USDA, 410 million pounds of honey were
consumed in the United States in 2010, with 61 percent of it of
foreign origin. The federal agency also reported domestic
consumption increased that year by 14 percent over 2009.
China is the world's largest honey producer. Some U.S. honey
producers accuse China of skirting trade rules by selling honey
through third-party countries and dumping it on the U.S. market.
A national standard would help customs officials at ports
inspect products and "determine what should be seized and what
should be accessed a tariff," said Mark Jensen, a Montana
beekeeper and president of the American Honey Producers
"There's no standard for that," he said. "They're running
The legislation, which passed unanimously, was headed to the
governor's office to be signed into law.