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The specialist international beekeeping organisation
Honey trade in many parts of the world is governed by regulations. These regulations fall into two broad categories
The purpose of regulations are to maintain standards and keep consumers safe. In different parts of the world different regulations apply.
Honey standards exist as a measure against which honey can be tested to show that it is honey, and not an adulterated substance.
The dominant internationally recognised standards have been created by The Codex Alimentarius Commission which was established in 1963 by FAO and WHO to develop food standards, guidelines and codes of practice applicable to globally traded foods.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission Standard for Honey is regarded as the minimum standard which should be achieved by any trader entering the international market. See below for link to the CAC Standard for honey.
In addition to the CAC Standard for Honey, regions and countries also develop their own standards, many of which are based on the CAC Standard.
In the EU, Honey Standards are governed by Council Directive 2001/110/EC, and member countries have been guided by this Directive to develop their own National Honey Standards.
Elsewhere many nations have developed their own National Honey Standards.
These Standards are used to measure or test honeys available in the marketplace, to assess whether the product is really honey, with no added substances. Beekeepers, honey traders and exporters should be aware of the honey standards which apply to the markets into which they sell their honey. However, provided they are producing, buying and selling genuine honey there is no need to be significantly concerned that they may fail to meet these Standards.
Most honey standards apply to honey from Apis mellifera. Should any trader or packer wish to sell honey from another honey bee species it would be inappropriate to measure that honey against a standard for honey developed for Apis mellifera. This can be problematic. For example, in the EU honey from Apis cerana would not meet the EU Honey Standard and the product would therefore be rejected as honey.
Food safety laws are designed and implemented to ensure that food which reaches a consumer will not cause them any harm. Food safety laws exist in most countries and cover a whole host of issues such as the personal hygiene of factory staff and the correct temperature for storage of perishable foods. However, all concern the avoidance of contaminants in the food product. Contaminants which must be avoided are chemical (such as residues from a toxic pesticide biological (such as harmful bacteria) and physical (such as broken glass).
In the EU honey is classified as an animal product therefore legislation which applies to animal products, applies to honey.
European food safety legislation applicable to honey
There are a number of EC Directives and Regulations which concern honey click here for more detailed information.
The Regulation with the greatest implications for countries wishing to export their honey to the EU is Directive 96/23/EC. This Directive determines that for a country to be eligible to export honey to the EU, it must be included in a list of 'third countries' which have shown that they are monitoring chemical residues. To achieve this it is necessary for countries to establish national monitoring systems for honey, for residues of antibiotics, sulphonamides, pesticides and heavy metals. Residue Monitoring Plans (RMPs) which show how these residues are being monitored must be submitted annually to the EU for approval.
As most African countries have not established Residue Monitoring Plans they are denied access to EU markets, even though chemical residues are not a problem in African honey. It is important to understand that because a country is denied access to the EU market as a result of this legislation this does not mean that their honey is of low quality - it means that the necessary procedures and paperwork have not been put in place to prove that the honey quality is being monitored regularly.
Producer groups and relevant government departments need technical awareness on how to set up cost effective monitoring schemes to meet the standard required by the legislation. In smaller exporting countries these can take the form of an industry self-regulating scheme, organised and monitored by a competent authority acceptable to the EU. It is not necessary for each exporting country to have its own laboratory for authentication and certification: only to establish an acceptable protocol and procedure for taking honey samples and submitting them to EU-accredited labs.
Further information about Residue Monitoring Plans
If a business wishes to export to the EU they must comply with the EU legislation and if exporting to USA, they must comply with USA legislation and so on. In some cases individual buyers e.g. a supermarket chain may have their own rules and requirements, in addition to international and national requirements.
Many countries have national standards and guidelines concerning proper handling, processing, storage and packaging of food. These standards and regulations must be adhered to for all honey destined for both the local and export market.
Codex Alimentarius Commission click here
Codex Alimentarius Honey Standard
The EU Health and Consumer Protection directorate provides information about residue monitoring click here
The World Trade Organisation Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures click here
European Union Council Directive 96/23/EU click here
Information about importing honey into the UK click here
UK Importer Information Notes for honey click here
This text is from the EU Commission website
"Third countries may only be approved for exporting certain food commodities to the EU on submission of a residues monitoring plan, covering each of these food commodities, which has been favourably evaluated by the European Commission services. Plans which are favourably evaluated by the European Commission are de facto deemed to offer guarantees equivalent to those provided for by Council Directive 96/23/EC for domestic production. The information from the evaluation is the basis for the formal approval of the plans by means of a Commission Decision. The information is published in Commission Decision 2004/432/EC which is regularly updated. Third countries listed in this Commission Decision are eligible to export those commodities for which they are listed to the EU, subject to animal and public health conditions."
(The Commission Decision pdf document is updated in June and October).
11 documents and 3 reference documents found
Bradbear, N, published 18/11/2014
Codex Alimentarius, published 1981, PDF on this website
Paper (pdf file) in English
An EU Commission inspection to India has revealed serious deficiencies concerning the implementation of the residue monitoring plan for milk and honey. Therefore the entries for India concerning ...
Bees for Development, published 2010, Bees for Development BfD Journal 96 11 Text on this website
Article In Bfd Journal in English
EU Commission, published 2011, EU External Link
Report in English
Janet Lowore Nicola Bradbear, published 30/11/2009, Bees for Development 96 PDF on this website
Article (pdf file) in English
The following documents are not available for download. There is a copy in the Bees for development library. Please contact us for access.
Watkins M., published 2005, Bee craft 87 42309
Article in English
Lovett T, published 2011, BBKA BBKA News 195 14
Article in English
Otsuka M.I., published 30/11/2003, Mensgem Doce 79 28
Article in Portuguese
It is important to understand that honey buyers and supermarkets may have market requirements of their own which may be influenced by, but not the same as legislation. Here is a list and explanation ...
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) EU legislation states that all food suppliers must identify and control food safety hazards. This is EU law which applies in the EU. However, ...
For any non-EU country to access EU markets it is essential that the country of origin of the honey has been accepted by the EC as a third country eligible to export honey - and this is achieved ...
Traceability in a supply chain is one safeguard to ensure that food which reaches consumers is safe to eat. If a consumer buys honey from a local beekeeper they know exactly where the honey ...