In my voluntary role as the Oceania President for the International Federation of Beekeeping Associations – Apimondia, it has me spending quite some time working on topics that impact honeybees and beekeeping globally. It’s incredible to get a global perspective on key industry topics such as honey adulteration and food fraud.
It’s astonishing to think that food fraud is now worth more money than the illegal trade of weapons and heroin. Consider this: PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates food fraud is worth $52 billion globally each year. The illegal trade in firearms is worth an estimated $8.5 billion a year and heroin $30 billion. No wonder food fraud is now among the high rollers of crime.1
Beechworth Honey starting raising questions about the growth in honey production from countries like China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and the Ukraine over two years ago. What triggered our concerns was the statistics that didn’t add up in relation to a small increase in beehive numbers versus the exponential growth in honey exports from these countries. Fast forward to 2018 and China’s beehive numbers have increased by just 6.7% yet their honey exports have increased by 199% in the last 10 years.
It’s numbers like these that reaffirm our position that Beechworth Honey will never import honey and will only ever use 100% Australian honey….always! This of course means competing in an environment where we know the world market is producing a product called honey that may not be just that. The positive outcome from this situation saw us helping Australia legislate and implement new Country of Origin labelling laws. We were highly motivated to be the first Australian company to introduce the new labels onto our products long before the market was due to switch labelling over. We believe that when consumers have the right information they can make a difference, and correct transparent labelling helps to do this.
Another key issue that needs to be addressed is that the Australian Government only tests 5% of the honey shipments that come into Australia. The concern with the current testing is that it only looks at one parameter, the addition of cane sugar in the honey. We know that the honey adulterators have long moved past using cane sugar to much cheaper additives like rice syrup, corn syrup, beet syrup and wheat syrups. We were proud to be part of the push by the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) that saw the Council ask the Government for additional testing of imported honey using the best test methods available. It takes time for governments to change legislation and its pleasing to see the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council tackling these tasks. If you’re interested in more detail you can read the AHBIC Strategic Plan at www.ahbic.org.au.
Even as a lover of bees and honey you can make a difference every time you shop by simply making sure you check the labels, and only buy 100% Australian honey from trusted sources who can trace the products back to the beehive. Beekeepers and family owned companies like Beechworth Honey are here to bring you the best Australian honey and we always appreciate your support! So enjoy a drizzle of the real stuff and thank a honeybee.
1 ALEX SAMPSON, The Weekly Times, May 29, 2017