Four North American honey marketing companies and importers—Golden Heritage Foods, LLC; Burleson's Inc.; Odem International; and Dutch Gold Honey—launched the Honest Honey Initiative and pledged to help protect the quality and reputation of the U.S. honey supply, as well as the sustainability of U.S. beekeepers and honey businesses. The initiative seeks to call attention to illegal sales of honey in circumvention of U.S. trade laws, a practice that the organizers estimate cost the United States up to $200 million in uncollected duties in 2008 and 2009 combined and threatens a vital segment of U.S. agriculture.

The group unveiled a website,, an educational resource providing information about where honey comes from and ways consumers, honey companies, food manufacturers and retailers can take action to eliminate illegally imported honey.

"When honey is imported illegally, no one can be confident of its true source and quality. Some products are not 100% honey and have other quality issues," said Jill Clark of Dutch Gold Honey, Lancaster, Penn. "We're asking people who buy and love honey to find out more about how the honey they enjoy is sourced. By raising awareness of unfair trade practices and taking the Honest Honey pledge, we hope to protect consumers and manufacturers who use honey, and to preserve the fair honey trade."

While many Americans purchase packaged honey, an even broader population enjoys honey in such products as cereals, breads, cookies, crackers, breakfast bars, meats, salad dressings, barbeque sauces, mustards, beverages, ice creams, yogurts and candies.

"Pick an aisle at the grocery store and you'll probably find at least one honey product there," said Clark. "It's a product that is added because of its wholesome, pure quality and taste, which is all the more reason why this issue is important."

"I'm glad that efforts like Honest Honey are educating people, because the quality of honey does matter—it matters to consumers and it matters to our nation's bee industry," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a honey bee researcher at Pennsylvania State University. "Illegally imported adulterated honey simply adds yet another problem to an already hurting bee industry."

"We estimate that millions of pounds of Chinese honey continue to enter the U.S. from countries that do not have commercial honey businesses," said Clark. "For example, countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and Mongolia raise few bees and have no history of producing honey in commercial quantities, yet have recently exported large amounts of honey to the United States.

"Honey has earned a special place in people's hearts and minds as a wholesome, natural food. We want to protect that reputation and quality," said Clark. Learn more about the Honest Honey Initiative at