Pune, May 27, 2010 (sources: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement News Release dated April 1, 2010; Texas A&M News & Information Services dated April 29, 2010; EurekAlert Public Release dated April 29, 2010; Science Daily news dated April 30, 2010; UPI Science News dated April 30, 2010): The news release dated April 1, 2010 of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says that Hung Ta Fan, a Taiwanese executive of several honey import companies was arrested in Los Angeles March 31, 2010 on federal charges filed in Chicago for allegedly conspiring to illegally import honey that was falsely identified to avoid U.S. anti-dumping duties. According to the ICE affidavit filed in Chicago, Fan and others allegedly used fraudulent means between July 2004 and June 2006 to import about 96 shipments of Chinese honey with a total declared value of more than US $ 4.5 million, falsely identifying it as originating in South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.
In a similar case earlier in May 2009, the ICE affidavit adds, Yong Xiang Yan, of a honey manufacturing concern in China was arrested to 'conspiring to illegally import Chinese honey that was falsely identified as coming from the Philippines to avoid a total of nearly $4 million in domestic anti-dumping duties.'
The practice of illegally importing Chinese honey into the USA as honey from other countries is continuing, according to a news release dated April 29, 2010 of the Texas A&M News & Information Service. Dr. Vaughn Bryant, a pollen scientist at the Texas A & M University at College Station, the news release says, found that honey samples labelled as coming from Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos usually turned out to be "a little honey from those countries and a majority of the blend coming from Chinese sources." Following is the full text of the release.
Scientist Tracks Origins Of Bootleg Honey From China
A Texas A&M University scientist spends hours at a time peering at slides of pollen samples, comparing them to track down the origins of honey with questionable heritage. Some of the samples contain labels from other countries when in fact they originated in China but were re-routed to avoid tariffs of up to 500 percent, says Vaughn Bryant, a palynologist and an anthropology professor at Texas A&M University.
The tariffs were attached to the import of Chinese honey about two years ago because exporters there were "dumping" it in the U.S. - selling it at a much lower price than its cost, which is about one-half what it costs U.S. honey producers. The practice has almost ruined the market for domestic honey, says Bryant, who is also director of the palynology laboratory at Texas A&M.
China is the largest honey producer in the world.
Bryant, who examines more than 100 honey samples a year for importers, exporters, beekeepers and producers, says he believes he is the only person in the United States doing melissopalynology - the study of pollen in honey - on a routine basis. For the last five years, he has analyzed the pollen in honey samples from all over the world to determine the nectar sources and origin of the honey.
He examines imported samples purported to come from Viet Nam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos, and usually discovers that the samples are blends "with a little honey from those countries and a majority of the blend coming from Chinese sources."
"Now there are lots of shenanigans going on to avoid having to pay those tariffs, and the investigators are way behind in following them," Bryant says. "The beekeepers of the U.S. have been pleading with the FDA to enact stricter guidelines about accurate labeling for honey, but that is a long, slow process. Meanwhile, I'm trying to help out here and there, but it's almost impossible to keep up."
Some foreign exporters get around the tariff by mixing honey from different sources, while others infuse up to 50 percent high fructose corn syrup into the honey, he says.
DNA studies of the pollen in honey are expensive and difficult, Bryant says. Isotopic studies can reveal the source, provided you have a database of isotope signatures, which for now are very limited, he adds.
"We've never had 'truth in labeling' for selling honey, and we should," he says. "And the U.S. needs to make it illegal to import honey that has been filtered to remove the pollen, which makes it almost impossible to detect where it came from."
Bryant has been a professor of either biology or anthropology at Texas A&M since 1971. He holds degrees in geography, anthropology and botany. Such variety has enabled him to address many topics - ranging from charting paleoenvironments and ancient human diets to his current emphasis on forensics and honey research.
John Thomas, who was an entomologist with the Texas A&M Extension Service from 1957 to 1992 and is a beekeeper and a major donor to the new Texas Honey Bee Facility at Texas A&M, says he is grateful for Bryant's work.
"We have fought with the Chinese importers because honey is not a primary export there; it is just a byproduct they get from these other products they produce for medicinal purposes," Thomas says. "This system the A&M anthropologists have devised is a mechanism to trace the origins of the honey through the pollens. Unfortunately, it doesn't solve the problem."
About research at Texas A&M University
As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents an annual investment of more than $582 million, which ranks third nationally for universities without a medical school, and underwrites approximately 3,500 sponsored projects. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.
Contact: Kelli Levey, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4645 or Vaughn Bryant at (979) 845-5255.