Pune, July 13, 2012: The European Economic Commission (EEC) has lifted the ban on import of Indian honey, with effect from November 1, 2011. The ban was in place for about 18 months and its lifting is a consequence of deliberations between the officials of the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India (MoC) and inspection by a team of the EEC officials, after the MoC rectified the shortcomings and submitted a revised residue plan to the Commission.
Earlier, the Food Chain and Animal Health Committee of the European Economic Committee in a meeting held on April 13, 2010, approved a blanket ban of honey imports from India. In its June 12, 2010 issue (L 147/5) the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) published Commission Decision of June 11, 2010 amending the Annex to Decision 2004/432/EC on the approval of residue monitoring plans submitted by third countries (including India). According to this decision: "A Commission inspection to India has revealed serious deficiencies concerning the implementation of the residue monitoring plan for milk and honey. Therefore, the entries for India concerning milk and honey should be deleted from the list on Annex to Decision 2004/432/EC. India has been informed accordingly." (see News dated August 4, 2010 in this site).
In India the Export Inspection Council (EIC) under the Union Ministry of Commerce arranges for tests on residues, antibiotics, etc., in the honey meant for export to EEC and sends the data to the European Union. Reacting to the ban the Secretary, MoC informed that the government was looking at ways to resolve the issue of import ban (see news item in the Economic Times dated June 18, 2010).
In its October 15, 2011 issue (L 270, Volume 54) the OJEU recorded the Commission Implementing Decision of October 14, 2011, amending and correcting the Annex to Commission Decision 2011/163/EU on the approval of plans submitted by third countries in accordance with Article 29 of Council Directive 96/23/EC. The Commission Decision relating to import of honey from India (L 270/48) says: "... India has now carried out corrective measures to residue plan for honey and a Commission inspection confirmed an acceptable implementation of the plan. Therefore, the entry for India in the list should include honey."
A strict NO to Antibiotic Use in Beekeeping
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India (FASSI) had at that time issued an advisory on September 24, 2010 clarifying that safety standards in India particularly with reference to antibiotics in honey are similar to those in the European Union, Codex Alimentarius (of FAO, UN) and the USA, where they are completely prohibited. Order 276 (E) dated March 4, 2002 of the EIC of India "prohibits the export, in the course of international trade of honey unless it conforms to the standard specifications applicable to it and is accompanied by a certificate of inspection or certificate that such unit is approved and monitored by any of agencies established under section 7 of the Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Act, 1963 (22 of 1963) including its sub-offices located at various places of the region."
According to the news reported in the Asian Age dated July 6, 2012, the Government of India decided that antibiotics should not be used at any stage of honey production, thereby conforming with the norms of European Union. The recommendation of FSSAI will soon be notified by the Union health ministry which will make mandatory for the producers that honey samples conform to these regulatory measures before they can be declared safe for consumption.