LUXEMBOURG — The EU will change its food labeling rules to stop fake Chinese honey secretly being passed off as European, national agriculture ministers and the EU’s agriculture commissioner agreed at a meeting this week.
Honey is one of the most frequently adulterated products in the world and EU beekeepers have long complained about being undercut by the industrial-scale, low-quality honey production in China, the world’s largest honey producer. There, it’s common for honey makers to blend in sugar syrup — a practice that doesn’t meet EU standards but is difficult to detect.
Current EU labeling rules for honey already require the label to state the EU country of origin, but when it comes as a blend of honey from different countries, the categories are vague — merely stating EU, non-EU or a mixture.
The push for “detailed and unambiguous” labeling of honey mixtures was spearheaded by France, Portugal and especially by Slovenia, a land of amateur beekeepers, which has used its presidency of the Council of the EU to push the issue up the agenda.
Slovenia’s Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek said during a press conference at the meeting that EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski had “recognized the need to amend the rules on labeling. The same goes for member states — a large majority of them voiced their support.” Podgoršek added that the Commission indicated plans to prepare a revised draft directive on honey.
Slovenia wants the countries of origin in honey blends to be individually named on labels.
Podgoršek did not mention China or any third country by name, but it is one of the biggest exporters of honey to the EU alongside Ukraine, and fake Chinese honey has been a topic of discussion in Brussels for years, especially because EU beekeepers complain they face unfair competition.
The minister said some EU countries also want the new label to state what proportion of honey in the blend comes from each county.
Honey can be adulterated by adding sugar syrup or being harvested from beehives too soon.
The EU relies on beekeepers outside the bloc for 40 percent of its honey consumption.
The Slovenian minister said the proposal would likely be finalized during the French presidency of the Council of the EU early next year.