Assemblymember Irwin Bill to Fight Honey Laundering

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO –  A bill authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin and sponsored by the California Beekeepers Association would provide the first updates to honey labeling in California since 1978.

Assembly Bill (AB) 519 would clarify country of origin labeling (COOL) for honey distributed in California. Honey country of origin labels would need to match the same font and size of the USDA Grade and be placed on the same panel as the grade statement.

“Californians deserve to know where their honey is coming from and what they may be ingesting,” said Assemblymember Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks). “Ignorance stings and not knowing where your honey is coming from could pose a real threat to one’s health.”

“Honey laundering,” occurs when honey is sold as pure but it is in fact mixed with other fillers or sweeteners, is of false origin, or is of poor quality. In June 2020, Sweetwater Labs, an independent lab dedicated to testing honey, found that 35-40% of the consumer-instigated honey the lab had tested was laundered. Current state and federal provisions attempt to address honey laundering by requiring labels to contain source and blend information as honey produced across the globe can have higher exposure to toxins, antibiotics, allergens, and environmental pollutants. That said, ambiguity in the laws have created discrepancies, resulting in cryptic and obscure labels.

California is one of the top producers in the country, producing over 3.2 million pounds of honey every year. Ventura County, represented by the Assemblymember, produces roughly 20% of the honey in the state. In 2019, the County produced 629,536 pounds or $2,011,000 worth of honey.

“This bill brings California standards into alignment with Federal country of origin labeling requirements,” said Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Ed Williams. “It provides a clear regulatory tool for me as a county agricultural commissioner to ensure integrity in labeling for local consumers and a fair marketplace for our Ventura County honey producers.”

AB 519 passed out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee with full bipartisan support and is scheduled to be heard in Assembly Appropriations.

Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin represents California’s 44th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Camarillo, Moorpark, Oak Park, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Thousand Oaks, and Westlake Village.