Due to Chinese imports of honey, this popular product is one of the most tainted foods entering the United States. China has set up a network of honey companies to the tune of billions in profit in honey counterfeiting.In 2001, the U.S. saw that China was dumping in the American market and Chinese honey with a major tariff — $1.20 per pound. the Chinese honey was, and is, “dirty.” The Chinese honey was found to be adulterated with harmful antibiotics, lead, molasses, fructose, farm chemicals, or whatever masking agent the Chinese will think up next. Yet Chinese honey is still on American grocery shelves and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. In order to evade the tariff, China sends its honey to a long list of Asian countries (particularly India) not subject to the U.S. import penalty. The Chinese honey is then given fake labels and point-of-origin documents, routinely repackaged and mixed with other honey, loaded on containers, and dropped into the U.S. market. The chop shop approach often results in ultra-filtrated honey: Pollen traces are literally removed, making the honey untraceable. But the process also leaves the honey devoid of color and taste. Solution? The chop shops just stir in extra honey made in India or Vietnam.

Texas A&M’s Vaughn Bryant, studied 60 honey samples from major retailers across 10 different states in 2011. His  showed that three-quarters of the honey samples had undergone the ultra-filtration process.The FDA has often appeared helpless because there is so much food imported into the United States.

In 2006, the U.S. government prosecuted the Alfred L. Wolff (ALW) company for illegal honey imports; ALW is a major food corporation headquartered in Germany. According to a 44-count indictment of the firm, over 2004-06, it laundered over 2 million pounds — 900 tonnes — of Chinese honey through India, evading nearly $80 million in duties.

Now, whistleblowers who work in the honey industry are watching for illegal imports of honey from China and are filing False Claims Act cases on behalf of the United States of America. This law allows them to received up to 30% of what the government recovers and at the same time to help American honey makers and distributors. The customs authorities help to follow up on these cases and more and more shipments of illegal Chinese honey are being stopped.

The honey industry has formed a group called True Source Honey which has created a traceability program so they can ensure honey’s path from the beekeeper all the way to the consumer.

New technologies—including stable isotope ratio analysis, can determine if honey is adulterated with sugar or if “natural” fruit juice is actually reconstituted from concentrate.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers in customs fraud and other whistleblower cases nation-wide