AFI Association of Food Industries

AFI Serving the U.S. Food Import Sector

NHPDA Report

Greg Olsen
Lamex Foods, Inc.

Another year, another series of issues for the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association and the entire honey industry. As usual, the NHPDA took steps quickly to address these issues.

For example, a team of representatives from NHPDA member firms met with officials with Customs & Border Protection to discuss our concerns about the agency’s use of a trace metals test in decisions regarding country-of-origin determinations. We requested the meeting after a number of import entries were held up due to issues related to the test. CBP was using results of this testing to erroneously determine honey from India was honey from China that was being transshipped to avoid antidumping and countervailing duties.

We said the trace elements test has shortcomings, uses a limited database and is not available for use by the industry but CBP uses it as a “hostage” on entries. While CBP’s Centers for Excellence and Expertise personnel were working with the industry on entries held up because of testing issues, the process is long, adds expense to each transaction and can result in product deterioration.

Importers and packers outlined steps many in the industry take to ensure quality and traceability and expressed frustration that the trace elements test can’t even be considered for inclusion in their efforts because CBP doesn’t share the methodology. We also offered to help develop a template of sorts that would outline recommended traceability documents specific to honey. We pushed for risk-based protocol or a decision tree following a testing concern on CBP’s part that would show that if the importer could produce documents A, B and C, it could be reasonably sure the issue would be resolved.

In response to our concerns about the trace metals test, CBP reps said the test is based on a trace metals test developed for garlic; they would not give further details. They also touted the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and Importer Self-Assessment programs as ways importers can demonstrate due diligence. Even after industry reps said they’ve been told by CBP personnel that antidumping/countervailing duty concerns override C-TPAT and ISA participation, CBP reps said participation in those programs would be viewed upon positively by CBP. I recommend members of other sections within AFI keep those comments in mind.

Regarding the database issue, CBP officials said they had contacted government officials in India for information and assistance. We’re doing our best to offer guidance and assistance regarding a planned CBP trip to visit beekeepers in India.

We took advantage of being in Washington to visit with FDA the day after our CBP meeting. We received updates on FDA testing of honey and they were interested in our thoughts and information on honey authenticity testing.

Two days, two different approaches. In one, we had to react. In the other, we were able to be proactive. That’s how it is for associations. In the case of the CBP testing, even though we raised our concerns in the past, the test was still being used and we had to react when use of the test created issues. With FDA, it was a way to continue an ongoing dialogue, so the agency and the industry knew of the other’s concerns; a way of trying to head off any surprises. Having an association in place was key in being able to address these issues. The association provided a vehicle through which we could collect information on the extent of the CBP issue. The association being in place gave us years of interaction within the industry and helped us to identify the best people to participate in these (and other) meetings. And the association’s name – known to those at many government agencies – provided familiarity to both agencies and helped ensure we could arrange our meetings.

Another huge benefit: the CBP issue provides a concrete example of how NHPDA members were alerted about an issue and received information so they could prepare. Those outside the NHPDA who had entries delayed had no immediate place to turn and probably spent lots more resources to try to address the issue.

This year’s report wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our sector’s victory regarding the new Nutrition Facts Panel requirements. We were successful in getting FDA to announce it would use its enforcement discretion regarding single-ingredient packages of honey. That means jars of honey on retail shelves, for example, will not have to be labeled as 100-percent added sugars. That requirement would have had a devastating impact on the honey industry because of the confusion it would have caused for consumers. Without the NHPDA, who knows what would have happened!

Association of Food Industries: Serving the U.S. Food Import Trade Since 1906
3301 Route 66, Ste. 205, Bldg. C • Neptune, NJ 07753
(732) 922-3008 • Fax: (732) 922-3590 • •