Retailers sued in class actions relating to honey

Posted on: April 17th, 2012 by Steve Larson
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Four separate class actions have been filed against Target Corporation, Walgreen Co.,  Aldi, Inc. and Publix Super Markets, Inc., claiming that the retailers falsely and deceptively label their “honey” products.  The lawsuits allege that the defendants remove all traces of naturally occurring pollen from their honey products, violating Florida’s “honey standard of identity,” which requires that no pollen be removed “except where unavoidable in the removal of foreign matter,” such as bug parts, wax and debris.  The plaintiffs allege that the retailers filter their branded honeys so extensively that all of the pollen is removed unnecessarily.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Mr. Meyer, said: “Any reasonable consumer believes that when they buy a product labeled ‘honey,’ it actually is honey.  It needs to meet the legal standard.  If not, the company that sells the product needs to label it in a way that distinguishes it from real honey so that consumers aren’t misled.”

According to the complaints, pollen contains numerous health benefits and is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and is used to trace the plant origin of honey.  Without pollen, the product’s source — whether it be “orange blossom,” “clover” or otherwise — cannot be verified.

Additionally, pollen is necessary to trace the geographic origin of honey.  The plaintiffs’ lawsuits refer to recent news reports regarding the large-scale smuggling of Chinese honey into the United States market, noting that unscrupulous Chinese honey manfacturers frequently use an ultra-filtration process to disguise the origin of their honey.  In some instances, the honey was contaminated with chemicals such as metals and antibiotics.

“Consumers deserve some assurances that the type and source of their honey can be verified,” said the lawyer for the plaintiffs.  “Honey without pollen just isn’t honey.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs estimate that there may be thousands if not tens of thousands of potential customers who purchased honey without pollen from Publix, Target, Walgreens, Aldi and others in the past four years, and intend to file additional lawsuits against other retailers who sell honey without pollen.