Indicate on the label the place of origin of certain foods is determinant for the producers. As has happened recently with milk, the government works in a royal decree that will oblige the honey to include its country of origin, improving the transparency of the information we received up to this moment and responding to a historical demand of the Spanish beekeepers.
Consumers have only one tool to make conscious food choices: truthful information.
Information on the broader concept of the term: knowledge of the nutritional values of a product, process of elaboration, composition, metabolic effects of certain nutrients or even how the raw materials have been obtained from the point of view Social and ethical.
There are brands that want to mislead the consumer by putting complaints like "Honey packed in the Pyrenees". Packaged, not collected
Every food decision we take has an impact that we are not always aware of. We can reinforce unfair marketing strategies or dismantle them, boost the growth of multinational companies or support local development, reinforce unconscious purchasing or bet on a more sustainable consumption model.
And even, in the individual environment, worsen our health or improve our quality of life.
The food information the consumer receives is decisive. Hence the transcendence of this project of Royal decree.
What the labelling tells us
The regulations in force in Spain require that the country of origin in which the honey has been collected be indicated, but it includes an exception if it is a mixture of honeys: In that case, it is sufficient to indicate "mixture of honeys originating in the EU". , "mixture of non-EU honeys" or "mixture of originating and non-EU honeys", according to specific circumstances.
In addition, no minimum ratio is established for the mixture: 50% of honey from EU countries and 50% from countries outside the EU or 99%-1%. There's no limit. It is also not necessary to specify what those countries are.
In this way, what is mainly found in the market are "mixtures of honeys originating and not originating in the EU" that comply with the regulation. But there are several circumstances that can bundle the consumer.
Spain exports 77% of the collected honey. And 82% of the honey consumed is imported, most of it from China
The first source of confusion is a legal requirement: the company that sells the product has to be identified on the label. If it is a company based in Spain, we will find a name and address of our country. But it only indicates that the marketer has its registered office in Spain, does not imply that the honey has been collected here.
But there are also strategies of marketing that intentionally seek to mislead the consumer, for example, including in the advertisements and in the label landscapes that remember national places or, directly, putting claims like "Honey packed in the Pyrenees" . Packaged, uncollected. The devil is in the details.
Figures that matter
One might ask whether such a minimal information as to indicate the country of origin of honey may have some real impact on the market. And the answer is the consumers: do we know where the honey we buy?, do we care about its origin?, pay more to know this fact?
This is what the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food wants to find out with its public consultation, in which any citizen can participate.
For the moment, what we have is other data. Overwhelming.
Although our country produces enough honey to satisfy 79% of domestic demand, we export 77% of the collected honey. And that 82% of the honey consumed in Spain is imported.
There may be several reasons to export most of the production, while we have to import to meet the demand. But there is an objective fact: according to the ministry, we export every kilo of honey to €3.96, and import it to €2/kilo.
Affected beekeepers, vulnerable consumers
Why is Spanish honey almost twice as much as the honey we import from other countries?
The honey we import to Spain comes mainly from China, which supplies us 57% of all the honey we buy from countries outside the EU. A country with production systems and working conditions very different from ours.
On the other hand, honey is a product that can be adulterated very easily. Being composed essentially of sugars (between 75-85% of the composition is mainly glucose and fructose), it can be mixed with syrups (water with some low cost sugar) to get much more "honey" with an infinitely more product Cheap. The difference can only be detected by analytical methods in a laboratory: it's a master move.
The sale of adulterated honey in the European Union is a reality: the commission found that 6% of honey was adulterated with sugar. And when the apparently accurate samples were subjected to more complex methods of analysis, the fraud reached 14%.
Beekeepers argue that in these circumstances they cannot be competitive. For this reason, countries such as Italy, Poland or Greece have incorporated the obligation to indicate the country of origin.
This decision did not much like the packaging industry (which prefers to buy the cheapest honey and continue to labeling it as a "mixture of EU and non-EU honeys") and demanded in the European Parliament with little success; This organism found no problem to extend the obligatory information and also to extend it to the place of collection.
A number of countries have shown interest in amending European legislation to indicate the place of collection of honey is compulsory in all Member States. Spain has been the last of them, and it did this in October of this year through a parliamentary question. A fairer market.
What can we expect?
The scenario that beekeepers fear is that it is necessary to indicate the different countries of origin of the mixtures of honeys, but that they simply have to order them in decreasing order, according to the quantity of honey that each one contributes to the final mixture.
In this way, consumers continue not knowing how much honey comes from each of the collection sites included in the labelling. We would find, for example, "countries of origin: China, Argentina, Portugal, Spain" and could mean that 95% of the honey is from China, 2% from Argentina, 2% from Portugal, and a testimonial 1% from Spain.
It doesn't seem very transparent.
The role of citizens
When we talk about food information, the first thing we have to think about is "do I understand what the label says to me?" It is not a simple task and is profoundly unfair, because we are being asked for a disproportionate effort in an act as everyday as the purchase of food. But until we get a clearer label (which we do not get tired of claiming), is the tool that we have.
Once this is achieved, if we consider that information is insufficient, let's fight because it is more clear and loyal. This time, citizen mobilization and the demand of producers can give tangible results. But it cannot be half-hearted and it is time to act by participating in the Government-launched consultation.
We demand as consumers truthful information that allows us to make conscious food decisions: those that will make us a little more owners of our choices.