June 1, 2020
Did you know the U.S. produces almost 200 million pounds of honey annually? And altogether, Americans eat almost 600 million pounds of honey a year! That means more than 400 million pounds of honey need to be imported annually to satisfy the American population’s demand for this delectable treat. Honey is big business in the world of importing, but if you’re too much of a busy bee to manage importing honey into the USA yourself, then a customs broker can help get your shipment through customs for you!
Importing honey to the U.S. requires adhering to FDA and USDA regulations, which include strict labeling requirements. However, if your honey import is coming from China, it won’t be allowed to pass through customs no matter what.
Since honey imports are regulated by the FDA and USDA, it’s wise to work with a customs broker to manage these sensitive shipments. USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International can manage all aspects of your honey import. From providing you with a customs bond to answering all of your questions through our customs consulting services, we’ll be with you through every step.
Before you can get in on this $333.5 million-dollar industry, you’re going to need to understand the laws and regulations for importing honey into the USA in the first place. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal government agency in charge of regulating imports of food products into the United States, including honey.
There are several things that you will need to do before you can import honey. The first thing is food facility registration. Any facility that is involved with the harvest, creation, storage, packing, or transportation of imported food products must be registered with the FDA before you send your shipment to the border. If your supplier isn’t already registered, you will need to make sure they register all their facilities with the FDA.
Once that is done, you’ll also need to make sure your supplier has implemented a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, which is a plan for identifying, monitoring, and preventing hazards within the facility to ensure food safety.
Finally, you will need to alert Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when your shipment of food will be reaching the border, so they can prepare to receive it accordingly. This prior notice requirement is important for making sure your import is inspected and handled quickly, so it doesn’t spoil.
Looking to import bees or beeswax? You'll have some additional requirements you'll need to meet. Check out our article Importing Bees and Beeswax to the U.S. for more information.
When packaging your honey for importing, it’s important to be aware of the regulations involved with labeling those packages.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires the following on its honey labels to pass import inspection:
The FDA also requires the following on all food labels:
Sometimes, producers will dilute their honey with water or corn syrup, then try to sell it like it’s pure honey. They can stretch their honey supply and make more money, but this is illegal. Failing to report all of the ingredients in a package of food can have serious consequences, and you can be sure your import isn’t getting through customs. This practice is known as “honey laundering.”
It is your responsibility to ensure that your supplier’s labels are true and accurate, and that the honey you are imported is pure. Failure to label your honey shipments properly will result in their seizure and destruction. You may even face legal repercussions.
Be wary of importing honey to U.S. borders that comes from China. In 1997, a deadly bacteria infected hives all across China and threatened to destroy the honey industry in the entire country. Chinese beekeepers decided to treat their hives with an antibiotic, known as Chloramphenicol to kill the infection, and it worked! But there was one problem: that antibiotic is toxic to humans, too.
Chloramphenicol is banned in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Despite the initial treatments taking place decades ago, traces of the antibiotic can still be found in honey from China. Since there is no amount of the drug that is considered “safe,” even the slightest residue of it can cause a batch of honey to be rejected.
However, simply refusing to import honey from China doesn’t protect you from this problem. China can ship its honey imports to other countries, where the honey is then imported into the United States under a different country of origin. This sneaky practice of smuggling in banned honey is obviously illegal, and like with honey laundering, it can get you in some serious trouble. Always make sure to verify the source of your honey before you try to bring it into the U.S., so there are no surprises at the port of entry.
Even after you’ve dealt with the FDA and USDA requirements, you still have to contend with the CBP regulations. The CBP protects the U.S. border from elicit materials and dangerous substances, so in order for your import to not be rejected immediately, you need to document everything properly.
To get your honey safely through customs, you will need to submit:
That last requirement, customs bond, is an important requirement for food imports. A customs bond is like an agreement between the shipper, the CBP, and a third party surety company that ensures the CBP gets paid all duties and fees for processing the import—even if the shipper is suddenly unable to pay. Since honey is regulated by the FDA and USDA, you will need a customs bond no matter what.
USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, can assist you with importing honey to the USA. We can help you secure a customs bond for your shipment, and we can guide you through the oftentimes complicated process of importing. When there’s so much on the line, you need a trusted partner you can rely on to get the right information fast. With our licensed U.S. customs brokers, you won’t have to worry about getting a bond, submitting paperwork, or finding the right import information on your own—we’ve got you completely covered!
Interested in our import consulting services, or working with one of our customs brokers? Give us a call at (855) 912-0406 to get in touch with us today!