A U.S. attorney in Illinois has announced charges filed against two companies and five individuals in a five-year investigation of imports that allegedly circumvented $180 million in anti-dumping duties on honey from China and involved purportedly “adulterated” honey containing the antibiotics chloramphenicol and tetracycline. Groeb Farms, Inc., described as the largest industrial honey supplier in the United States, knowingly avoided more than $78.8 million in antidumping duties by buying mislabeled honey imported from China and has agreed to pay a $2 million fine and “to dispose of any illegally-entered Chinese-origin honey in its possession.” It will also institute a corporate compliance program to ensure supply chain integrity and conduct “reasonable inquiries to safeguard against any illegal activity.”

Jun Yang, Urbain Tran and Hung Yi Lin were all charged with brokering or transporting illegal Chinese-origin honey in the United States. Yang will plead guilty and has agreed to a fine of $250,000 and restitution of $2.64 million. He also faces a 74-month prison sentence. Tran will plead guilty and has agreed to a fine of $500,000 and restitution of $204,403 and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on each fraudulent sales and transportation count. Lin still faces arraignment; she was charged with one count of transporting 10 container loads of Chinese-origin honey through the Chicago area. The charge could result in a penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Douglas Murphy and Honey Holding I, Ltd., together doing business as Honey Solutions, allegedly purchased honey from Poland containing the broad spectrum antibiotic chloramphenicol. Murphy has pleaded guilty and faces a $26,624 fine and six months in prison. Acknowledging its responsibility, Honey Holding agreed to pay a $1 million fine and will also establish a corporate compliance program. According to the U.S. attorney, the company avoided more than $33.4 million in antidumping duties by purchasing honey from “at least seven shell and front companies that were controlled by various Chinese honey producers and manufacturers.”

Canadian resident Donald Couture has been indicted on four counts of violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for delivering honey containing prohibited antibiotic tetracycline. Each count carries a $250,000 fine and a maximum prison sentence of three years. See U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois Press Release, February 20, 2013.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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