Pune, September 10, 2010: In its on-going efforts to check illegal imports of honey into the USA, the country's Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security (ICE) conducted a large-scale investigation that resulted in indictment of 11 individuals and 6 corporations on federal charges. A news release of the ICE dated September 1, 2010 says that the charges by the US Federal law enforcement officials included mislabeling the honey as coming from other countries to avoid anti-dumping duties, and included honey that was adulterated with antibiotics not approved for use in honey production. The news release says: "Between 2002 and 2009, the defendants allegedly conspired to illegally import more than $40 million of Chinese-origin honey to avoid anti-dumping duties totaling nearly $80 million."
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois said: "Not only was the government defrauded from collecting substantial customs duties, but domestic honey producers and other importers were denied a fair market, according to the indictment, and the defendants distributed adulterated honey that never should have reached the US Marketplace."
According to the news release, shipments of "Chinese-origin honey that entered the United States between March 2002 and April 2008 ... were allegedly falsely declared as having originated in one of the following countries: Russia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand."
US federal food and drug safety laws consider honey containing Chloramphenicol, Ciprofloxacin, Furazolidone and Norfloxacin as "adulterated". The antibiotic Chloramphenicol is a broad spectrum antibiotic used to treat serious infections in humans, but is not approved for use in honey production.
A AFP news on the subject (see here and here) reports that Patrick Fitzgerald cautioned that while the honey was tainted with antibiotics that are not approved by US regulators for use in honey production, there was no reason for the public to "panic." "There is no allegation and no reason to believe that any of the honey involved in this case had led to any injury or illness," he told reporters, adding that the bulk of the imported honey was of a commercial grade and would have been diluted before it reached consumers.