When you squeeze the golden liquid out of that familiar bear-shaped bottle, do you ever wonder where it comes from? Americans consume around 1.4 pounds of honey each per year, but behind this common sweetener is a tariff war and an international scam that has resulted in millions of bottles of Chinese honey being mislabeled to avoid extra taxes, according to an article in The New York Times.
In 2001, the Commerce Department created a steep tariff for honey imported from China, which almost tripled the import duty. The tariff was a result of American honey producers complaining that Chinese honey was flooding the market. Afterward, a curious thing happened: honey production spiked in countries with low bee populations, like Malaysia and Russia. Through lab testing, it was determined that 90 percent of honey imported from Thailand, the Philippines, and Russia had actually originated in China, and the packages were slapped with other country labels when being shipped from major ports like Shanghai.
As a result, the United States has a $180 million tariff avoidance case against China. One by one, the sticky situation is solved by careful scientific procedures. The process of testing honey is daunting: each specimen that comes through the labs has to have its DNA analyzed for trace minerals and metals that will give away a country of origin.