Most of us — beekeepers and the folks who know them — know where our honey comes from.

IMG_1807But lots of people do not.

And there is a lot of bogus honey out there, particularly what is used industrially (rather than sold in stores).

The problem of bogus honey has been around for a while. In 2006 a petition went to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to come up with a definition of honey. The FDA refused.

Now the Agriculture Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is talking about coming up with a federal standard for the identity of honey. The folks there want public comments. Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, has sent out the following report:


AMS Seeks Standard For Honey, Finally. But No Need To Rush…you got more than a year to comment.

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking comments on how a federal standard of identity for honey would be in the interest of consumers, the honey industry, and U.S. agriculture.

A document published in the Federal Register on Wednesday says comments must be received within 30 days.

The 2014 Farm Bill charged Agriculture Secretary Vilsack with developing a report describing the advantages of a federal standard of identity for honey.

Back in 2006, members of the honey producing, packing, and importing industries petitioned the Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for developing a standard of identity for commodities, to develop such a standard for honey.

The petitioners contended “the proposed standard will promote honesty and fair dealing not only in the interest of consumers, but in the interest of the honey industry as well.” The petitioners also stated that “a compositional standard for honey will serve as a tool to help combat the economic adulteration of honey.”

But in 2011, the FDA denied the petition concluding that no standard of identity for honey was necessary. Earlier this year it published draft guidance for industry on proper labeling of honey and honey products.

It again stated that the petitioners’ goals can be achieved by FDA’s existing authorities and that a standard of identity for honey would not promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.

The Federal Register notice says there now are several standards for the inspection and grading of honey. The U.S. Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey, effective date May 23, 1985, and the U.S. Standards for Grades of Comb Honey, effective date May 24, 1967, are voluntary U.S. grade standards issued under the authority of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946.

“To provide an acceptable amount of guidance to help prevent the economic adulteration of honey at some level, many states have adopted, and/or are proposing to adopt, state-level standards of identity for honey,” AMS Associate Administrator Rex A. Barnes says.

“While some are following the 2006 honey industry petition and using an amended version of the Codex Standard for Honey, CODEX standard 12-1981, Rev.2 (2001), variations in the state standards of identity for honey are inevitable. The end result could lead to an assortment of standards that vary from state to state and impede interstate commerce.”

AMS is seeking comments on the petitioner’s request for a standard of identity for honey and, specifically, the adoption of deviations as defined in the petitioner’s request, and draft proposal.

“This notice provides for a 30 day period for interested parties to comment on the petitioners’ request, and on how an appropriate federal standard for the identity of honey would be in the interest of consumers, the honey industry, and United States agriculture,” Barnes says.


Key words: honey, federal standards for honey, definition of honey, Bee Culture, Kim Flottum, Food and Drug Administration, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, bogus honey, industrial honey, identity of honey