Labeling Requirements for Honey

NCDA and CHP labeling guideline

Minimum labeling requirements of the NCDA
Note: This information is taken from documents furnished by the NCDA.

Unlike other food products, there are no state or federal standards of identity for honey that can be enforced under the State or Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Acts. Honey can be found offered for sale in containers labeled with various amounts of information; some of which is pertinent and some of which is simply marketing. Exactly what labeling information is required for a container of honey sometimes creates confusion. The minimum labeling requirements for honey are outlined and regulated by the The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), enacted in 1967, which directed the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration to issue regulations requiring that all “consumer commodities” be labeled to disclose net contents, identity of commodity, and name and place of business of the product’s manufacturer, packer, or distributor. The FDA has been asked numerous times over the last half century to enact a “honey standard” and enforce its’ provisions. However, the FDA has repeatedly failed to do so.

In North Carolina, the guidelines for the labeling of honey conform to the requirements of the FPLA. In a Memorandum of Understanding by and between the Food and Drug Protection Division and the Plant Industry Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture dated August 10, 1984, the labeling requirements are set forth and paraphrased below. “Products which are sold or represented to be honey must be labeled as follows:
(1) The common or usual name honey must appear on the label. A floral source such as sourwood, clover, etc., may be part of the name provided the product contains a significant amount of pollen from that flower.
(2) The name, address and zip code of the manufacturer, packer or distributor must also appear on the label.
(3) A declaration of net contents must appear in the lower thirty percent of the label panel expressed as weight (in both avoirdupois and metric weights) such as “Net wt. 16 oz (454 g)”.

In regards to honey that is to be sold at Farmers Markets operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, effective June 1, 2012, a permit is required to sell honey labeled as “sourwood” or “North Carolina Honey” at state owned farmers markets. No permit is required to sell other types of honey. At a state supported Farmers market, the guidelines read, “Sellers who are found to be selling honey in violation of these Guidelines will be denied permission to sell “sourwood” or “North Carolina” honey on the Market, and may also be subject to loss of privilege to sell on the Market”.

Outside of the Certified Honey Producer Program, the NCSBA has no jurisdiction or authority to enforce honey labeling of any description. The Food and Drug Protection Division personnel are responsible for any enforcement of its regulations. The NCDA has responsibility to enforce the state owned Farmers Market regulations for sourwood and North Carolina honey. Any other wording on a container of honey is the choice of the seller. Only the aforementioned minimum labeling requirements apply unless the honey is to be sold by a participant of the NCSBA’s Certified Honey Producer Program whom has agreed to abide by the CHPP guidelines.

Certified Honey Producer Labeling Guidelines

  1. Observe the minimum labeling requirements set forth by the NCDA&CS.
  2. Information on feeding honey to infants less than one year of age is strongly recommended
  3. The floral source of the honey should be accurately represented on the label. Unless honey is produced from a known predominate source of nectar, such as clary sage, sourwood, gallberry or has been tested to determine to the nectar source then the honey should not be labeled as to be from one predominate source but should be labeled as wildflower honey, spring honey, fall honey or other inclusive categories.
  4. The term organic honey should not be used to describe certified honey.

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THE NCDA FOOD AND DRUG PROTECTION DIVISION AND THE NCDA PLANT INDUSTRY DIVISION 

This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes an agreement be-tween the Food and Drug Protection Division and the Plant Industry Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture with regard to performing sanitary inspections of Beekeepers/Honey Processors. The MOU will elimi-nate the need for duplicate inspections of an industry by two divisions of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and will enable the Plant Industry Division to more fully utilize the expertise of the apiary inspectors.

The Plant Industry Division has the North Carolina Bee and Honey Act of 1977 and specific regulations (Title 2, NCAC Chapter 10B) which pertain to the Beekeeping Industry. Additionally, Plant Industry apiary inspectors work directly and frequently with the Beekeepers/Honey Processors. Plant Industry apiary inspectors presently perform inspections to ensure that bee colonies are healthy and free of disease(s) which could be harmful to bee colonies and undermine the bee industry. Although apiary inspectors have not been performing sanitary inspections of processing areas, they have been encouraging good “honey house” sanitation. Good sanitation practices have been encouraged and for the most part followed because they reduce the incidence of bee disease and make for healthier bee colonies.

To assist the apiary inspectors in performing sanitary inspections and to ensure uniformity this MOU contains inspectional guidelines which conform to the laws and regulations (N. C. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and Title 2 NCAC Chapter 9) which govern the actions of the Food and Drug Protection Division. 

Specifically, the North Carolina Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act is a regulatory law designed to ensure public protection. It provides rules of conduct for the manufacture, production, processing, packaging, and storing of food, drugs and cosmetics. The Act is broad and gauges the levels of practical, reasonable compliance not by a set of sharply precise “Do’s” and “Don’ts”, but by a concept of what is or is not “good commercial practice”.

Inspections of Beekeepers/Honey Processors shall be made to ascertain that: 

  1. 1. The surroundings around the honey processing and packaging area are sanitary (free of standing water, waste, refuse, uncut weeds, etc.);
  2. There is a safe and ample water supply;
  3. Toilet facilities are available, adequate and clean;
  4. Equipment is suitable for intended use, properly maintained, clean and sanitary;
  5. Processing methods are sufficient to prevent adulteration;
  6. The facility is free of rodents, insects and birds;
  7. Products are stored under correct conditions; and
  8. Products comply with packaging and labeling requirements.

Apiary inspectors should inspect to ensure that honey is not being adulterated with other sugars. Products which are sold or represented to be honey must be labeled as follows:

(1) The common or usual name “honey” must appear on the label. A floral source such as sourwood, clover, etc., may be a part of the name provided the product contains a significant quantity of pollen from that flower. 

(2) The name, address and zip code of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor must also appear on the label.

(3) A declaration of net contents must appear in the lower 30 per-cent of the label panel expressed as weight such as “Net wt. 30 oz. (1 lb. 14 oz.)”.

Since honey is a product made by bees with no added ingredients, an ingredient list is not required. Honey that contains other sugars must be labeled “Table Syrup” and an ingredient listing is required.

So long as this MOU is in effect, the Food and Drug Protection Division will abstain from performing independent inspections of Beekeepers/ Honey Processors. The Food and Drug Protection Division will assist the Plant Industry Division as needed to ensure: 

  1. That honey is processed under sanitary conditions;
  2. That honey is free of adulterants; and
  3. That honey is properly labeled.

When situations occur where reasonable compliance based on good commercial practice by apiary inspectors is not being obtained, this in-formation will be reported to supervisory personnel in the Plant Industry Division. This inforamtion will be conveyed to the Food and Drug Protection Division, and a joint inspection will be arranged for the appropriate Food and Drug inspector and apiary inspector. Any enforcement action as may be necessary will be carried out by Food and Drug Protection Division personnel.

This Memorandum of Understanding shall continue in effect unless modified by mutual consent of both parties or termination by either party upon thirty (30) days written notice to the other. 

Effective Date of MOU  August 10, 1984  

Leonard F. Blanton, Director Food 6 Drug Protection Division 

George E 4 Spain, Dire or Plant Industry Division