Saturday, August 20, 2011

Honey Laundering, Or How Chinese Lead And Indian Antibiotics Become Indian "Honey"

IP Dragon Weekend Edition

 (Mandarin mi4 feng1 Cantonese mat6 fung1) 
= honey bee  
 (Mandarin feng1 mi4 Cantonese fung1 mat6) 
= bee honey 

Two time Pulitzer-prize winning reporter for investigative journalism, Andrew Schneider wrote an interesting article about Chinese honey that is imported to the U.S. via India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia (and for some time Russia) that contains dangerous antibiotics and/or lead. The Chinese honey is imported via other countries into the U.S., since 2001. That was the year that the U.S Commerce Department imposed a tariff to prevent Chinese companies to dump cheap products on the American market.

Schneider: "Almost 60 percent of what was imported - 123 million pounds - came from Asian countries - traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone." And India does not even have the capacity (the amount of bees) to produce 45 million pounds of honey.

The only Indian part in the "honey" might be the dangerous Indian antibiotics. Chinese beekeepers fought an epidemic of foulbrood disease with antibiotics, which includes chloramphenicol from India, which can damage DNA and be carcinogenic, and can lead in about one out of 30,000 people to a fatal reaction. 

Some honey vendors use lead-soldered drums to collect and store the honey before it is collected by the brokers for processing. This can lead to lead contamination.

Sometimes no trace of honey
Schneider writes: "Another favorite con among Chinese brokers was to mix sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery, barley malt sweetener or other additives with a bit of actual honey. In recent years, many shippers have eliminated the honey completely and just use thickened, colored, natural or chemical sweeteners labeled as honey." 

Read Schneider's article that reads like a Crime Scene Investigation. He writes that the Food and Drug Administration is unable to effectively the origin of the honey and its safety, about two institutions that can test the pollen, about the cat-and-mouse game of testing and ultra-filtration that removes or conceals floral fingerprints (pollen) and sweeteners or contaminants, and the lack of a definition of what honey is. Read Schneider's article for Food Safety News here.

Characters explained:
 left part of character means "insect", right part means "meets in groups", 
as bees tend to do.
 top part is "roof", middle part is "necessary", lower part is "insect". The top part and middle part combined is "silence". Not sure whether bees are silent or whether they keep buzzing in their hive. 

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