Guidelines aim to keep falsely labeled honey out of NCDA&CS farmers markets
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is implementing guidelines aimed at preventing the sale of falsely labeled honey at its five farmers markets across the state.
Beginning June 1, vendors at department-operated farmers markets must apply for approval to sell honey labeled or advertised as "sourwood" or "North Carolina." The requirement applies to beekeepers selling their own honey and vendors selling honey produced, packaged or distributed by others.
Approved vendors must keep records showing when and where the honey was produced and packaged, the name of the person or business that supplied the honey, and the date of receipt.
The guidelines apply to honey vendors at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Piedmont Triad Farmers Market near Greensboro, Western N.C. Farmers Market in Asheville and the Southeastern N.C. Agricultural Center and Farmers Market in Lumberton. The guidelines do not apply at other markets across the state.
"North Carolina honey and honey from sourwood nectar are often thought of as premium products that command a higher price," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "But independent tests conducted by the N.C. State Beekeepers Association indicate that honey labeled as 'sourwood' has been sold at state farmers markets even though it contained little or no sourwood pollen. It also appears that honey labeled as 'North Carolina' honey has been sold at state farmers markets even though it contained honey produced in other states."
Unlike other food products, there are no identity standards for honey that can be enforced under state or federal food laws. But Troxler said the department can still take steps to guard against deceptive honey sales at its five farmers markets. The beekeepers association developed identity standards for honey that served as the basis for the farmers market guidelines.
"We want to eliminate potentially deceptive practices in the labeling of honey for sale at our markets," Troxler said.
Individuals interested in selling either sourwood or North Carolina honey at the department's farmers markets may obtain an application by contacting market managers. Contact information for the five markets is available online at www.ncagr.gov/markets/facilities.
Market managers will work with the N.C. State Beekeepers Association to investigate complaints. Vendors who are found to be selling honey in violation of the guidelines could be denied permission to sell sourwood or North Carolina honey, and could lose the privilege of selling at the market.