It is interesting to note that Canada are now tackling an issue that we in South Africa need to address – imported honey, a lot of which comes from China. How do you know what honey you are actually buying? South Africa imports over 3000 tonnes of honey per annum to support ‘demand’. This honey comes onto our shelves under familiar brands, with ingredients listed as ‘honey’. The question is what honey are you buying?
According to an article from beeculture.com “Many people in Canada’s honey industry believe the honey from Spain, Thailand, Ukraine and elsewhere actually originates from China. It’s the largest honey producer in the world and has a reputation for funnelling its honey through other countries to avoid a “made in China” label on the back of the bottle”. With cheap prices, it’s no wonder this honey finds it’s way onto our shelves in South Africa. And the cheaper product means bigger margins for brands, and a greater inclination not to buy local honey from local beekeepers. This is a situation that is impacting on the stability of the beekeeping industry in South Africa and likely the health of our honey bees too.
All imported honey needs to be irradiated by law, to control diseases. This needs to be on the label along with countries of origin. This is how the consumer should be able to differentiate between local and imported. According to a reputable source in the industry, there are packers now bringing cheap honey in from African countries. This honey is exempt from irradiation and it is thought, though there is no real proof, this was how American foulbrood disease (AFB) arrived in SA – imported honey came into our country, over one of our borders, and was passed off as African honey, thus exempt from irradiation necessary to control these diseases.
Perhaps the only ‘guarantee’ that we South Africans have as to the quality and source of our honey is when we find a Guaranteed Traceability sticker on the lids or bottles of honey. This label indicates the honey type, the region it is harvested from and when it was bottled. And then we need to have brand trust, trust in the company that sells the product to us. Other than that, you could be buying anything; a blend of local and imported honey, or simply a bottle of imported honey that is ‘produced in South Africa’. We need more stringent labeling practices in South Africa. Labeling practices that give us, the consumer, the choice to support local beekeepers. Guaranteed traceability that gives us the choice. Perhaps Canada can show us the way as they start to find traction with an issue that has been brewing there for the last 20 years. In the meantime, be aware of what you are buying, and buy local.