Imported Chinese Honey. Haven’t We Learned Anything?

Thursday, February 5, 2009 0:39
Posted in category From the Factory Floor

The summer and fall of 2007 should have been a wake up call for anyone and everyone whose supply chain involved China.  The risks of doing business outside of one’s four walls smacked importing firms across the face as their products failed.  Lead paint barbie, tainted dog food, and others.

It was a time when “Made in China” became something tainted in itself, even though many of the failures had little to do with China itself, and one would have thought that through that time people would have learned a lesson.

Well.  It appears not.

The title of the recent Seattle PI article should say it all Honey Laundering: Tainted product still slips easily into U.S., and if it doesn’t than these paragraphs should capture your attention:

The newspaper’s five-month investigation into honey laundering — the intentional mislabeling of the country of origin — found that tons of Chinese honey coming into the U.S. is tainted with banned antibiotics.

But when the contamination is discovered by the industry through internal testing, insiders say, federal health or customs officials are almost never notified, and the honey ends up being dumped back on the market.

In particular, the article highlights Sue Bee Honey, which are finding (on average) a container of bad honey a month,  and rather than report ths shipment to the FDA or destroy the content, they are returning the product to their suppliers IN CHINA to handle it:

Bill Allibone, Sue Bee’s president, said the company has no intention of telling government regulators about the bad honey it finds.

It’s not really Sue Bee’s honey, he said, “because technically, it’s still (the importer’s) property until we pay for it.

“We have not notified the FDA in the past because we don’t have title to that property,” Allibone said.

“We deal with a core group of suppliers that have long, established ties in the import business, and we’re assuming that when we reject a load of honey, they’ll return it to the people they purchased it from.”

Allibone said he has no idea whether the tainted honey is resold to other U.S. packers. Asked whether the company had an obligation to take action to protect the public health, the president repeated: “It’s just not our honey.”

Isn’t that fantastic.

Their suppliers who have a “long history” of importing the honesy are selling them a bad container a month, but they are somehow entrusting them to do the right thing.

Perhaps I am over reacting here, but this is just a cop out on the part of  Sue Bee Honey, however this article also highlights a massive hole in the system.

Why are these groups not forced to report failures?

I began wondering this question actually when reading that the recent producer of Salmonella laced peanut butter had found salmonella through internal tests, but that there was no rule specifying that they must notify anyone of this, and they were able to ship the tainted products anyway.

So, once again we find ourselves faced with a systemic issue whereby Chinese suppliers are shipping failed products, corporations are looking out for their self interests, and the agencies are unprepared.

Just when I thought that progress was being made.

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