In the last two years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has partnered up with Customs and Border Protection to seize over $8 million dollars worth of smuggled honey coming into the Port of Houston.
But why would anyone want to smuggle in honey?
It all goes back to the economic practice of dumping – where foreign companies flood the market with cheap goods that would damage competition. To combat this, the Department of Commerce has instituted anti-dumping taxes that penalize importers on commodities from certain countries.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Halverson heads up the investigation. Halverson says he believes these penalties have caused some foreign importers to go underground, mislabeling points of origin in an attempt to avoid US duties.
“It’s a scheme that we are very much aware of, and it’s scheme we are on the lookout for,” Halverson says.
The illegal honey doesn’t just hurt US based businesses either, Halverson says that it also poses a public safety risk.
“When we have done tests on honey, there have been traces of chloramphenicol,” Halverson says. “Which more people are allergic to chloramphenicol than they are to penicillin.”
When the honey does slip through it can end up on grocery store shelves or used in other products as a sweetener.
When ICE and CBP find illicit honey, it’s destroyed on site.