Commercial beekeepers in the US say counterfeit honey from Asia is forcing down prices and pushing them to financial collapse

Imports of cheap, fake honey from Asia are pushing American beekeepers to financial collapse, according to a lawsuit.

Thousands of commercial beekeepers in the US have taken legal action against the country’s largest honey importers and packers for allegedly flooding the market with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of counterfeit honey.

Theclass-action lawsuit aims to clear supermarket shelves of fake honey in jars and cereal packets and seeks millions of dollars in damages for lost sales and profits over the past decade.

The case has been filed in California on behalf of beekeepers by Kelvin Adee, owner of Adee honey farms, the largest commercial beekeeper in the US; Henry’s Bullfrog Bees, based in Winters, California; and Golden Prairie honey farms, a Kansas not-for-profit organisation.

They have accused the honey importers Sunland Trading and Lamex Food and the honey-packers Barkman Honey and Dutch Gold Honey of conspiring to defraud the US honey market, along with True Source Honey, an organisation set up by the importers and packers to operate a honey-certification scheme that the beekeepers claim passes off fake honey as genuine.

The global honey market has grown from 1.5m tonnes produced annually in 2007 to more than 1.9m in 2019 and is worth about $7bn (£5bn). But over the same period, according to the Mexico-based Honey Authenticity Project wholesale honey prices fell in the US from $3,500 (£2,500) a tonne to $2,500 (£1,800), brought down by low prices of Asian honey of around $1,750 (£1,250) a tonne, which accounts for a third of honey exports worldwide. The US imports 197,000 tonnes of honey a year, of which almost half are from Asia.

Honey is understood to be the most adulterated food after milk and olive oil.

Between 2007 and 2019, there was a 128% increase in Asian honey exports worldwide even though the number of hives has only risen slightly and honey yields have fallen due to threats to bees from pesticides, poor nutrition, and parasitic mites.

“There is more honey being sold each year than existing bee populations are capable of producing and from some countries which don’t even have the climate or floral resources to produce large volumes of honey,” said Arturo Carrillo, coordinator of the Honey Authenticity Project, which estimates that about a third of worldwide honey imports could be counterfeit.