A Canadian man is among five people nabbed in "Project Honeygate," a U.S. Department of Homeland Security undercover investigation into an alleged honey importing scheme.
Five people and two companies are accused of flooding the market with cheaper honey from China and avoiding $180 million in duties, American officials said Wednesday.
The Chinese honey was declared as other commodities and shipped through other countries to the United States to avoid anti-dumping duties, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
Donald Couture, 60, the president, owner and operator of Premium Food Sales Inc., a broker and distributor of honey in Bradford, Ont., was indicted on four counts of violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Officials say one of Couture's customers in the U.S. rejected four container loads of his honey because it contained tetracycline, a common antimicrobial drug.
Couture, it's alleged, then sent the shipment to a different American customer without disclosing the presence of the antibiotic.
Couture was initially charged in a sealed complaint in November 2011 and the complaint was unsealed after he was indicted last week. Each count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The website for Premium Food Sales Inc. was down Thursday, but a message left at a contact number on a cached version of the page was not returned.
The executive director of the Canadian Honey Council said illegal imports are not much of an issue in that country because it produces more honey than it consumes. Canada is a honey exporter, whereas the U.S. needs to import honey to meet its consumption needs, said Rod Scarlett. Read more.