FDA Issues Guidance on Proper Labeling of Honey

<p>FDA issued a draft guidance stating food companies and other producers that add sweeteners to honey have to alert consumers by labeling their products as a &#8220;blend." Only manufacturers that do not add sugar, corn syrup or other sweeteners should label their products as pure &#8220;honey."</p>

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today issued a draft guidance reminding the food industry that honey and honey products must not be misbranded or adulterated under the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The proper labeling of the food products helps to ensure consumers understand the contents of honey and honey products available for purchase and can differentiate between them.

According to the guidance, food companies and other producers that add sweeteners to honey have to alert consumers by labeling their products as a “blend." Only manufacturers that do not add sugar, corn syrup or other sweeteners should label their products as pure “honey."

So why is this voluntary guidance important?

According to government estimates, Americans consume more than 400 million pounds of honey each year—with 251 million pounds imported from other countries, including Brazil and Mexico. The agency regularly detains honey imports and tests them after finding unlabeled added sweeteners, such as cane sugar and corn syrup, or drug residues like chloramphenicol or fluoroquinolones.

In fact, a 2012 analysis of the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) database on risk factors for food fraud listed honey as one of the seven most likely food ingredients to be targets for intentional or economically motivated adulteration of food. According to the American Beekeeping Federation, honey prices increased to a record high during 2013 to $2.12 per pound, up 6% from $1.99 per pound in 2012.

The draft guidance comes nearly three years after FDA denied a 2006 petition from the American Beekeeping Federation and several other honey-related associations requesting the agency adopt a U.S. standard of identity for honey based on the 2001 Revised Codex Alimentarius Commission’s Standard for Honey. FDA denied the petition because it didn’t provide reasonable grounds for the agency to adopt the Codex standard for honey. The draft guidance issued today addresses the labeling issues relevant to the petition and reinforces existing laws and regulations to the industry.

Comments on the draft guidance are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register of the notice announcing the availability of the draft guidance. Electronic comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov. Written comments can be submitted to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

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