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Mislabeled Chinese Honey Leads to Criminal Busts

After a four-month investigation, federal authorities have indicted yet another group of importers for allegedly smuggling Chinese honey into the U.S.

Since September, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection have seized more than 5 million pounds of intentionally mislabeled Chinese honey at customs warehouses near 11 U.S. ports or being shipped to honey packing operations. 

According to U.S. Attorney Robert O’Neill, of the Central District of Florida, the lengthy investigation of the honey smuggling resulted in a grand jury issuing indictments against three individuals for smuggling honey from China into the U.S. 

The illicit honey came from more than 120 large ocean-going shipping containers unloaded at large and small ports throughout the country.  Each metal box was packed with 64 steel drums each holding 644 pounds of honey.

Investigators told Food Safety News that field agents expect to seize additional shipping containers of honey, which could result in additional indictments. 

The indictment detailed precise instructions for personnel at shipping warehouses to cover or remove labels on the drums and shipping documents, which fraudulently claimed the contents were Rice Fructose Syrup or other similar products. The bogus labels were replaced with new labels saying “amber honey.” The switch, according to investigators, was to avoid paying about $2.5 million in anti-dumping duties. 

The duty or tariff of an extra $1.20 a pound was assessed against Chinese honey by the U.S. Commerce Department in December 2001 to stem the flood of cheap, government- subsidized honey being dumped on the U.S. market to the detriment of American beekeepers.

O’Neill says the three men – Chin Shih Chou, 48, from Taiwan; Qiao Chu, 25, from China, and Wei Tang Lo, 48, from Hacienda Heights, Calif. – were arrested after a grand jury charged the trio with smuggling honey from China. If found guilty, each could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

Investigators say the illicit honey was consigned to several major packers, but the indictment named only Groeb Farm in Belleview, FL, and Glorybee Foods in Eugene, OR.

In previous stories by Food Safety News, all the U.S. honey packers interviewed said they never buy Chinese honey.  They loudly insisted that that the hundreds of million pounds of sweet nectar from bees being shipped into the U.S. each year is pure and natural and originates any place but China. 

Federal investigators say their arrest record proves that’s not the case and the dozen or more criminal indictments that have been made in the last five years all involved Chinese honey.    

The largest of the busts happened in Sept. 2010 when 11 individuals and six corporations were indicted on federal charges for allegedly participating in an international conspiracy to illegally import honey from China that was mislabeled as coming from other countries to avoid antidumping duties.

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Andrew Schneider also writes for coldtruth.com and thefoodwatchdog.com

        

© Food Safety News
  • c.f.

    what good is the information when it is incomplete?
    why aren’t the perpetrators , companies, brands named? Listed?
    you are for helping the consumer, but how does this lack of detail help anyone?
    am i missing this valuable information?

  • Ellen Franzen

    c.f., your comment is good, but I think the lesson to be learned from this is to ALWAYS read labels, and if at all possible, know your honey producer (this pretty much means buying at a farmers market, so I hope one is available to you.) Sadly, these days we cannot count on the safety of our food, so I try to know the person who raised it. Fortunately, my farmers market carries everything from meat to eggs, fruits, vegetables, flour, rice (wheat is the cover crop for the rice, according to the farmer who sells these), so for a price, at least I know the face and name of my food producers.

  • http://thewritecoachonline.com warnercorn

    In cases like this, reporters can only report what is in the indictment, but two packers are named … Glorybee and Groeb. Glorybee sells Glorybee honey. Groeb’s main brand is Miller (which is in linked stories). Probably could have mentioned miller. There is also much more detail in the linked stories, including a list of honeys tested by FSN.

  • http://www.scoringag.com Brunhilde Merker

    You can’t trust a label as we see. Everybody can change labels and falsify information. What’s needed is records that can be linked in a database with labels backed with real-time database information