Background

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service has clarified that honey packers must include conspicuous and indelible labeling, in English, naming the country of origin of all imported honey regardless of whether its labeling uses approved USDA marks or grade statements.

The 2008 Farm Bill requires all packed honey bearing any official USDA mark or statement to also bear “legibly and permanently in close proximity (such as on the same side(s) or surface(s)) to the certificate, mark, or statement, and in at least a comparable size, the country or countries of origin of the lot or container of honey, preceded by the words ‘Product of’ or other words of similar meaning.” However, in the preamble to a rule setting forth its regulations implementing that law, AMS stated that “if the honey is not officially grade labeled, the country of origin labeling is not necessary whether the honey is domestic or foreign.” AMS has thus been requested to clarify whether country of origin labeling is required for honey that does not bear official grade marks.

AMS concludes that the statutory requirement for every article of foreign origin or its container to be legibly, permanently, and conspicuously marked to indicate the country of origin is the law and is in no way invalidated or superseded by the additional marking requirements in the 2008 Farm Bill. AMS explains that those requirements only apply to the country of origin labeling statements associated with the existing regulations governing the inspection and grading of processed fruits, vegetables, and miscellaneous products, which provide for the use of approved identification marks and describe prohibited uses of approved identification.

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