Notice to industry – Authenticity of honey in the Canadian marketplace

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) launched a targeted surveillance strategy in 2018 to verify if honey samples were authentic and not adulterated with foreign sugars. A report summarizing the findings has been posted.

Of the 240 honey samples, 78% complied with Canada's regulatory requirements, including 100% for Canadian honey. This means that nearly 1 in 5 samples did not comply.

The purpose of this notice is two-fold:

  1. to remind industry, including importers, distributors, and retailers, of the legal requirements regarding the importation, distribution, and sale of honey in Canada
  2. to affirm industry's legal responsibility to ensure full compliance with the requirements

Canada's regulatory requirements for honey

Honey sold in Canada must comply with the Food and Drugs Act (FDA), the Food and Drugs Regulations (FDR), the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR).

As per these requirements, all food sold in Canada must be safe for consumption and truthfully represented. Imported or inter-provincially traded products that are represented or sold as honey are also subject to the federal standard for honey in section B.18.025 of the FDR, which states, in part:

  • B.18.025 [S]. Honey shall be the food produced by honey bees and derived from
    1. the nectar of blossoms,
    2. secretions of living plants, or
    3. secretions on living plants

The addition of foreign sugars to a food represented as honey, such as in the form of corn, rice or cane sugar syrup, is not permitted. Such a practice is considered adulteration and a contravention of the FDA and SFCA. Adulterated honey is not allowed to be sold as honey in Canada.

Learn more about these and other regulatory requirements for honey.

Obligations of industry

Regulated parties are responsible for ensuring the above requirements are met.

Under the SFCR, licence holders must maintain a written preventive control plan. This preventive control plan must include measures to ensure the safety of the food as well as ensuring that the food is not represented in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive. Measures must also be in place to ensure compliance with prescribed compositional standards.

Control measures may include supply chain controls whereby industry members obtain assurance from their suppliers, or through their own analytical efforts, that the products they receive and offer for sale meet all regulatory requirements.

CFIA offers guidance to industry on labelling requirements for honey products and on preparing a Preventive Control Plan.

Penalties for non-compliance

Industry is reminded that failure to comply with the above requirements with respect to the importation, distribution, or sale of honey will be considered a potential contravention of the FDA and the SFCA.

CFIA has a variety of control and enforcement measures at its disposition, including product detention, disposal, order to remove from Canada, and prosecution. Enforcement actions in cases of non-compliance take into consideration the harm caused by the non-compliance, the compliance history of the regulated party, and whether there was intent to violate federal requirements. Additionally, under the SFCR, CFIA has the ability to suspend or cancel a licence.

Ongoing surveillance activities of CFIA

CFIA has a testing program to analyse for adulterants such as sugars and/or syrup added to honey. The Agency also monitors honey for veterinary drug residues, chemical contaminants, and compliance with specifications of the standard, such as moisture content.

Industry plays an important role in ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements to protect consumers from deception and to achieve a fair marketplace. CFIA encourages all parties that are aware of deceptive or fraudulent practices to report these to CFIA.

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