Federal officials have indicted executives of a German import company, a Chinese national and a number of companies, charging them with importing honey from China into the United States by illegal means that avoided the payment of duties and allowed product adulterated with antibiotics to enter the country. U.S. v. Wolff, No. 08-417 (N.D. Ill., filed August 31, 2010). The honey was purportedly shipped through other countries, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Russia, mislabeled and then shipped to the United States, thus avoiding some $78 million in anti-dumping duties applicable to Chinese-origin honey. The conspiracy allegedly began in early 2002 and ended in early 2009. The indictment includes 44 counts of illegal activity, including falsifying documents and placing into interstate commerce food with unsafe additives, specifically, the antibiotics norfloxacin and ciprofloxacin.

Meanwhile, a coalition of honey producers has reportedly called on the industry to question its sources to help correct the problem of illegally traded honey. According to a news source, the group estimates that the United States lost up to $106 million in 2009 in uncollected duties. A spokesperson was quoted as saying, “We need people to ask where the honey they enjoy is coming from—whether it’s from the jar or used in a cereal, salad dressing, beverage, power bar or other food product. And we need food manufacturers to examine how they’re sourcing honey.” The group, known as True Source Honey, has apparently published an online reference guide for food manufacturers to use when checking the origin of their honey supplies. See FoodNavigator-USA.com, September 8, 2010.

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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