I read a great bit of reporting on honey importing.

The sedans and sport utility vehicles stirred up dust as they rolled into the parking lot of Pure Foods Inc., a Washington honey producer.

Out popped a dozen people in dark windbreakers identifying them as feds — agents from Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some raced to the loading docks. Others hurried through the front door. All were armed.

The man who runs the business, Mike Ingalls, was stunned.

“I just sell honey — what the hell is this all about?” he remembered asking, as he was hustled into a tiny room with his office manager and truck driver.

Three days before the April 25 raid, customs had persuaded a federal judge in Seattle to issue the search warrant shoved in Ingalls’ hands. But it wasn’t until Ingalls read “Attachment D” that he understood why investigators were seizing his business records, passport, phone logs, photographs, Rolodexes, mail and computer files — almost anything that could be copied or hauled away.

He was suspected of trafficking in counterfeit merchandise — a honey smuggler.


Ingalls said he’s used Chinese honey in the past. He and his wife traveled to China in 1995 and worked closely with honey producers to help them improve their operations.

“But that ended when they made big changes in how they do business,” he said. “The quality control, honesty and ethics doesn’t seem to be there now. I no longer trust them.”

Most of this imported honey doesn’t end up in the mom and pop local honey producers, but in the large, “too big to fail” kinds of honey distributors, like Sue Bee which sells honey at Wal-Mart and other larger retailers. Among other adulterations, Chinese farmers use chloramphenicol, a general antibiotic, on their bees. Chloramphenicol is a general purpose antibiotic that is banned in the US. It is good at killing bacteria but it also does a number on human mitochondria, which results in bone marrow suppression, aplastic anemia, and possibly a high risk of leukemia. Pregnant mothers should eat imported honey, either, because newborn infants can’t produce the liver enzymes necessary to metabolize chloramphenicol.

Large Honey importers (Sue Bee) have Chinese honey laced with Chloramphenicol
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