Florida Extension Beekeeping Newsletter
Apis--Apicultural Information and Issues (ISSN 0889-3764)
Volume 12, Number 8, August 1994
PERMITTING HONEY PROCESSING
Dr. Keith Delaplane at the University of Georgia recently
discussed food regulations in his column "Strictly for the
Hobbyist," American Bee Journal, July, 1994. His concern comes
from hard experience. It seems that a food inspector visited a
store that was buying Dr. Delaplane's honey. The merchant ceased
doing business because Dr. Delaplane was not licensed by the state.
At first disgruntled by yet another "imposition of government on
agriculture and grass-roots living," Dr. Delaplane has changed his
opinion. He now urges beekeepers to be proactive on this issue.
Even the smallest beekeepers who sell honey to the public must
comply with facility licensing laws in Georgia. According to Dr.
Delaplane, "The licensing consists of a permit issued at no cost
following a satisfactory inspection. Facilities are inspected
The above policy used to be about the same in Florida.
However, as of January 1993, the rules have changed. According to
Florida Statute 500.12, Section 1(a), "A food permit from the
department is required of any person in the business of
manufacturing, processing, packing, holding, preparing or selling
food at retail . . . " Most of this statement was already in the
old law, but Section 1(b) says "Applications for a food permit from
the department shall be accompanied by a fee to be determined by
department rule, not to exceed $350. Food permits shall be renewed
annually on or before January 1." Thus, the time is over when food
processors can obtain free permits. For small producers (less
than $10,000 in sales), this translates to a fee of $60.00 per
year, according to Dr. John Rychener of the Bureau of Food and Meat
Inspection, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Although the strict letter of the law requires all beekeepers
selling honey to the public to obtain permits, there is some
latitude. Florida employs only eighty-four food inspectors to
oversee the food safety in over 25,000 processing plants and retail
stores. The occasional small honey producer can be missed,
according to Dr. Rychener. However, if and when the food
inspection service becomes aware of any person/business without a
permit, it must act. There is no penalty the first time one is
discovered. Nevertheless, once contacted by a food inspector, one
must obtain a license which is renewable annually with imposition
of a late fee, if applicable.
Section 5E-6.008 of the same law provides sanitary regulations
governing manufacture, processing, packing, or other handling of
honey. They are summarized in Hints for the Hive 106, soon to be
distributed as ENY 106 in the IFAS CD-ROM FAIRS program:
(1) HONEY HOUSE. A honey house is any stationary or
portable building, including equipment, used for the purpose of
extracting, processing, packing or other handling of honey.
(2) FLOORS. Floors...shall be impervious and easily
cleaned...smooth, in good repair, and kept clean...and if having a
drain, be drained into a septic tank, or cesspool, or be connected
to local sewage disposal facilities.
(3) WALLS AND CEILINGS. Shall have smooth washable
surfaces, be clean and in good repair.
(4) LIGHTING AND VENTILATION. Shall be adequately
ventilated...permit efficient operations and cleaning of equipment.
(5) DOORS AND WINDOWS. Shall be screened, kept in good
repair, and equipped with bee escapes.
(6) WATER SUPPLY. Shall be properly located,
constructed and operated in accordance with local sanitary
codes...easily accessible and sanitary.
(7) CONSTRUCTION, CARE, USE AND REPAIR OF HONEY HOUSE,
CONTAINERS AND EQUIPMENT. During operation, the honey house shall
be used exclusively for extraction, processing, packing or other
handling of honey and for the storage of equipment related to the
business of the honey house. Containers shall be free of internal
rust, cleaned before reuse...all open equipment should be covered
when not in use.
(8) WATER DISPOSAL. There shall be an efficient waste
disposal system. Toilet facilities, including wash basins, shall
be conveniently available to honey house personnel. Toilet rooms
shall not open directly into any room of the honey house. Toilets
without plumbing shall be at least 75 feet from the
plant...screened and have a self-closing door.
(9) STORAGE OF EQUIPMENT. Equipment shall be stored
free from rust and contamination.
(10) HEATING EQUIPMENT. No boiler, oil stove or other
heating equipment that gives off dust or odor may be used within
the honey house, unless it has proper ventilation...and shall
comply with fire regulations.
(11) WORKER SANITATION. Workers shall wear clean and
washable clothing... keep hands clean, and be provided with clean
and sanitary towels.
(12) CARE AND HANDLING OF COMBS OF HONEY. Combs should
be loaded and handled so as to protect them from contamination.
(13) USE OF HONEY PUMPS. Before being pumped, honey
shall be strained through a screen of at least eight meshes to the
inch or pumped from a baffled sump tank which provides a constant
supply of honey for the pump.
(14) CONTAINERS AND STORAGE. Honey shall not be packed
in containers which have previously contained pesticide, creosote,
gasoline, kerosine, fuel oil, paint, glue or other toxic
substances. Storage tanks are to be protected from contamination
and packed honey stored in a clean and sanitary manner.
(15) PESTICIDE PROHIBITED. The application of spray
type pesticides in the honey house is prohibited during
extracting, processing and packing honey.
Questions pertaining to Florida honey house sanitation
should be directed to Dr. John Rychener or Mr. Kevin Lufkin, Bureau
of Food and Meat Inspection, Food Safety Division, Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services, 3125 Conner Blvd., Tallahassee,
FL 32399-1650, Ph. 904/488-3951 or 1-800/HELPFLA, "select or say
6" for Food Safety.
HONEY ADULTERATION ON THE RISE
There is evidence that honey adulteration is approaching
epidemic proportions in Florida and elsewhere. As in the past, the
prime culprit is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The addition of
HFCS to honey, even in large amounts, is difficult to detect
without laboratory testing. And occasionally, vendors simply sell
corn syrup as honey. Any of the above practices renders honey
either adulterated and/or misbranded under the Florida Food Law.
Many people are concerned about adulteration of honey, but it
is extremely difficult to police. In a way, honey is its own enemy
in this effort. The sweet is so healthful that, even when
adulterated, it is not a health hazard. State and federal
inspectors are stretched to their limits examining high risk foods.
According to Mr. Lufkin of the Food Safety Division, mentioned in
the previous article, there are not enough personnel resources left
to enforce deceptive labelling practices. Inspectors are focusing
instead on meat, milk and other products that are less forgiving
than honey in their processing.
"Detection of honey adulteration is the easy part," Mr. Lufkin
says, "Tracking the violators is the constant challenge. All too
frequently, the trail leads to phantom producers and distributors,
hiding behind false labels and cash transactions." Only when
enough people contact food inspectors, legislators and other policy
makers with solid information can some effective action be taken.
In the recent past, adulteration was reduced after an especially
blatant case came to trial followed by conviction. However, the
practice is raising its ugly head again.
Honey adulteration adversely affects the apicultural industry
by displacing its product in the marketplace. It also lowers the
price as imports have been accused of doing. However, at least
most imports are real honey and paying assessment for promotion to
the National Honey Board. Adulterers reap double benefits: high
prices for their product, cheaper to market than even the least
expensive imported honey, coupled with no promotional assessment.
As in the past, the beekeeping industry is the first line of
defense against adulteration. A "self-policing" program, sponsored
by the American Beekeeping Federation continues to be in effect.
Suspicious honey is tested and, if found adulterated, the
Federation notifies the proper officials and sends a report to the
person who sent the sample for their follow-up. In spite of the
recent adulterating activity, the Federation is receiving very few
Feeding bees sugar syrup and/or HFCS and extracting "honey"
containing these products is also adulteration. Thus, beekeepers
cannot be too careful. Even small amounts of adulterants are
detected by tests currently in use. It is impossible to tell
adulterated honey by either taste, smell or color. The only real
evidence comes from defined techniques certified by the National
Association of Chemists. Experience has shown, however, that
adulterated product has one or all of the following
1. No flavor, just sweet.
2. Very light or very dark
3. Molasses flavor
4. Consistently low price
In addition to the above characteristics, adulterated honey
has often been associated with "rustic" labels and "Mason" type
jars. If you see suspicious product, send a sample to the
Secretary-Treasurer, American Beekeeping Federation, P.O. Box 1038,
Jesup, GA 31545, ph 912/427-8447, along with the following
DESCRIPTION OF HONEY SAMPLE: (include the label or copy the
information on printed label including size of package, brand, name
and address of packer or distributor)
Code # on Jar or label_______________________
If only the packer's name appears on label, name and address of
Reason why honey is suspected of being adulterated_____________
Name and Address of Sender_________________________________
A fact sheet entitled ENY 103 Honey Adulteration is available
on CD-ROM and from this office. It discusses the adulteration
issue and provides the information given above on the American
Beekeeping Federation's "self-policing" program.
Malcolm T. Sanford
Bldg 970, Box 110620
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
Phone (904) 392-1801, Ext. 143
BITNET Address: MTS@IFASGNV
INTERNET Address: MTS@GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU