The Food and Drug Administration says it’s time to rethink honey labeling standards.
Natural, sticky and inherently flavorful, honey has since ancient times been a sweet indulgence. But all that glitters isn’t gold.
Many producers of the amber-colored natural sweetener add sugar, corn syrup or other taste enhancers to their products, which sit as equals alongside pure honey on store shelves, leaving shoppers none the wiser.
Now, the Food and Drug Administration wants to make sure that consumers seeking the genuine article can easily distinguish it from blended varieties.
The FDA this week issued draft guidelines that if any sweeteners are added to honey, product labels should read “blend of sugar and honey” or “blend of honey and corn syrup.” Only manufacturers of additive-free honey would use the “honey” label.
American honey producers have long been concerned about cheap imported substitutes. And the federal watchdog and enforcement agency regularly inspects and tests honey imports for unlabeled “adulterated” sweeteners and drug residues. In the past, it has detained foreign honey containing additives (and even potential toxins) from countries including China, India, Mexico and Brazil.
Honey blends cut with corn syrup or sugar is cheaper than pure honey, which reached an all-time high of $2.12 a pound last year, according to the USDA.
Although Americans consume more than 400 million pounds of honey each year (about about 1.3 lbs. per person), according to government and industry estimates, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows that only 149 million pounds were produced in the United States in 2013.
Manufacturers have 60 days to comment on the proposal before final policy guidelines are issued. Even then, however, compliance would be voluntary not mandatory, since guidelines do not have the binding force of regulations.