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.