Rule tackles 'funny honey'
Adulterated honey must be labeled as such to be sold
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- The House and Senate agricultural committees have given the Idaho Honey Advertising Commission authority to enforce a rule that prevents the sale of so-called "funny honey" in Idaho.
A lot of adulterated honey being sold in Idaho is being passed off as 100 percent honey when it's far from that, said commercial beekeeper Dale Reisinger of Emmett.
"There is a lot of adulterated honey and typically it's priced well under what good honey is," he said. "This (rule) gives us teeth to go after those who are trying to misrepresent honey or label something other than honey as honey."
Commercial beekeeper Nick Noyes of Fruitland demonstrated the need for the standards by giving Senate ag committee members packets of real honey Jan 17.
"That's 100 percent honey," he said. "You can sometimes find corn syrup on the shelf that looks like that honey but it's not; it's corn syrup. That's what we're trying to stop."
Idaho ranks 10th in the nation in honey production with about 3.1 million pounds annually. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture registers about 100 commercial beekeepers annually who combined have about 150,000 colonies.
The new rule, which gives the commission and ISDA authority to enforce industry standards, spells out the different types of honey and includes specific labeling requirements.
Products that don't contain 100 percent honey can still be sold in the state but they have to be properly labeled and cannot claim to be pure honey.
For example, products labeled as honey syrup are mostly corn syrup with 7 percent honey, said Michael Cooper, bureau chief of ISDA's plant industries division.
"That gives the consumer the idea that it's real honey," he told senators. "If it's been flavored or changed in any way, that needs to be disclosed."
While other adulterants can be used in fake honey, corn syrup is the main problem, Reisinger said.
"There are definitely people out there who are trying to make a buck by using corn syrup that costs 25 cents a pound over honey, which is well over $2 a pound, to increase their profit margins," he said.
Besides the economic impact to producers, the industry also wants to protect honey's reputation, he said. "We're trying to protect ourselves along with honey's good name and quality."
Florida was the first state to pass funny honey standards and most other states have adopted or trying to adopt similar rules.
Testifying in support of the new standards, Idaho Honey Industry Association Executive Director Rick Waitley pointed out that much of the nation's food supply is pollinated by honeybees.
"It does help protect a very important industry," he said.