Beekeepers Lobby For Movement on Honey Bill
Some of you enjoy honey as a sweetener in food and drinks. We assume that the word "honey" on the label means that bees made the product in the bottle. That's not always true.
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There is no standard definition of what honey is or isn't in the U.S., and now, the New York beekeeping industry and state lawmakers are working to change that.
New York beekeepers sell a lot of honey; three million pounds in 2010 according to the Empire State Honey Producers Association. The value is $5.4 million. Nationwide demand is tough to meet.
"Everybody wants honey in everything.” Says Pat Bono from Seaway Trail Honey. “Currently, 60% consumed in the U.S. is imported."
Bono says cheap honey from some foreign and even domestic producers is anything but pure. The label says honey... but it may include rice or corn syrup, or contain worse.
"A lot of the imported honey has been cut or even contaminated by things such as chloramphenicol, which is illegal to have in any food item."
While their bees keep producing, Empire State beekeepers are lobbying lawmakers to
join other honey-producing states in enacting a law that defines exactly what honey is.
Senator Joseph Griffo is a sponsor of the State Senate bill.
"The objective is to ensure that it's a quality product, it's a pure product with a standard that becomes associated with New York State so that it's a premier product that will be a benefit to the state of New York," said Griffo.
"For the consumer,” adds Bono, “it would be 'truth in labeling'. Many people buy honey, because it is considered a pure, natural food. They may buy honey for perceived health
As another honey production season draws near to a close in New York, those bills are stalled in the State Assembly and Senate Agriculture Committee. Griffo says that's in part, due to differences in the way the bills are worded.
"There was some concerns expressed from some beekeepers and beekeeper farms, and we're trying to address those issues."
"The only problem that I would see with some people who don't want the bill is that they are bottling substandard honey that couldn't meet the standard," said Bono.
Griffo says lawmakers will work with the Agriculture Department, beekeepers and the
Farm Bureau to come up with a bill that protects the state's honey producers and guarantees that consumers are buying a pure product when they see "honey" on
Empire State Beekeepers are circulating an online petition and they will man an information booth at the New York State Fair later this month.