The FDA has released a report on an investigation into imported honey and the intentional adulteration of it for economic gains.

The report from the Food and Drug Administration includes information on 107 samples from 25 countries. The FDA collected the samples in import status, which refers to products collected at ports of entry or other locations where they are held prior to being released into domestic commerce.

The agency tested retail and bulk samples in 2022 and 2023. Retail samples consisted of individual jars or other containers. Bulk shipment samples were collected typically from barrels or drums. All of the samples were labeled as being “honey.”

The FDA conducted a similar sampling and testing program in 2021 and 2022. Those tests showed 14 percent of samples were intentionally adulterated.

Adulteration of honey generally involves the addition of undeclared sweeteners that are less expensive than honey, such as syrups derived from cane, corn, rice, or sugar beets. Such adulteration artificially increases the value of the honey by increasing its weight and can cause problems for people with food allergies.

“Of the 107 import samples collected and tested, the FDA found 3 import samples, 3 percent, to be violative. While the number of violative samples represents a slight decrease from the 2021-2022 imported honey assignment, the two assignments were not designed for statistical comparison,” according to the FDA’s report.

Honey from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Yemen were found to be adulterated.

When the FDA found a sample to be violative, the agency took follow-up action to prevent further distribution of that violative honey shipment into the U.S. market. All violative samples resulted in refusal of entry for that shipment into the U.S. 

In addition, the FDA increased screening and surveillance sampling or placed the associated company and product on Import Alert (IA) 99-47. Products listed on the Import Alert are subject to “Detention without Physical Examination.” For those products to be admitted into the U.S., the company is required to provide evidence to the FDA to overcome the appearance of a violation, such as the test results of a third-party laboratory, verifying that the product does not contain added sweeteners.

“The results reaffirm the need for the agency to continue to test honey for economically motivated adulteration to ensure consumers are not deceived and they get fair value for their purchase,” the FDA report says.