Bogus Sellers at Farmer's Markets

Here are 2 articles worth checking out before you head to your nearest farmer's market, ready to spend your precious dollars on supposedly fresh and local foods. It is also good, when shopping for vegetables, to keep in mind what should be growing in your area at that particular time of the year. For example: I know, from talking to the organic farmers in the spring, that most of them were resting their fields during the summer. Since they just recently started planting for the fall, I don't expect to see any vegetables from this area until October. So... if you see beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers... you might want to ask a lot of questions before you pay the ''organic'' price for them! Each farmer's market has its own regulations. I know for a fact that there people selling stuff from all over the place at the Riverside Arts Market, for example. Ask questions in a way that you don't give them the answer (where, when, what did you use to grow this... instead of ''is this organic?"), and ask other farmers as well. They will tell you if there is any funny business going on.


NBC Los Angeles Uncovers Local Farmers Market Frauds

A few bad apples may be lurking behind the farmers market sign. (Photo: Reuters Pictures).
Farmers markets have skyrocketed in popularity as the demand for organic, locally-grown, pesticide-free produce has grown in recent years.
But can you be sure that the fresh fruits and veggies you buy at a neighborhood market are actually the sustainable, healthy, local goods they're billed as?
Turns out, sometimes it's rather tough.
The NBC affiliate in Los Angeles went undercover at various farmers markets in Southern California.
They found numerous instances of lying and false claims:
We found farms full of weeds, or dry dirt, instead of rows of the vegetables that were being sold at the markets. In fact, farmers markets are closely regulated by state law. Farmers who sell at these markets are supposed to sell produce they've grown themselves, and they can't make false claims about their produce.
Farmers markets in California (and many other states) are tightly regulated to ensure that consumers get exactly what they're paying for. Click over to NBC Los Angeles to get the full story, and let us know in the comments below if you've ever been suspicious of the fruits and vegetables you bought at a farmers market.
And to make sure your beets and carrots aren't pesticide-enriched imposters, NBC LA has these tips:
Operators of farmers markets we spoke to suggest shoppers get to know vendors they buy from, and ask them a lot of questions. Ask for the exact location of the farm where the produce is grown. If they claim their produce is "pesticide-free," ask them what methods they use to control pests on their crops. Ask exactly when the produce was picked. If the farmer can't give you specific answers, or seems unwilling to answer your questions, market operators say you should walk away.

States expand efforts to combat 'funny honey'

In this photo taken Sept. 23, 2010, honey bees on a comb at the North Carolina Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds)AP – In this photo taken Sept. 23, 2010, honey bees on a comb at the North Carolina Arboretum in Raleigh, …
RALEIGH, N.C. – You might call them the Honey Police — beekeepers and honey producers ready to comb through North Carolina to nab unscrupulous sellers of sweet-but-bogus "funny honey."
North Carolina is the latest state to create a standard that defines "pure honey" in a bid to curb the sale of products that have that label but are mostly corn syrup or other additives. Officials hope to enforce that standard with help from the 12,000 or so Tar Heel beekeepers.
"The beekeepers tend to watch what's being sold, they watch the roadside stands and the farmer's markets," said John Ambrose, an entomologist and bee expert at North Carolina State University who sits on the newly created Honey Standards Board.
Florida was the first state to adopt such standards in 2009. It's since been followed by California, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Similar efforts have been proposed in at least 12 other states, including North and South Dakota, the nation's largest producers of honey, together accounting for roughly one-third of U.S. output.
Beekeepers and honey packers around the country are fuming about products masquerading as real honey, and they hope the state-by-state strategy will secure their ultimate goal: a national rule banning the sale of any product as pure honey if it contains additives.
Americans consume about 350 million pounds of honey per year, but just 150 million pounds are made domestically, creating a booming market for importers and ample temptation to cut pure honey with additives such as corn syrup that are far less expensive to produce.
This month, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago announced the indictments of 11 German and Chinese executives and six companies on charges that they avoided nearly $80 million in honey tariffs and sold honey tainted with banned antibiotics.
The scale of the problem nationwide is hard to gauge. It's largely a concern for the big producers who make most of America's honey, said Bob Bauer, vice president of the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association.
"The honey industry is looking to be proactive and take whatever steps are necessary not only to keep it from becoming a widespread problem, but to get rid of it entirely," he said.
The most passionate supporters of the laws tend to be beekeepers and other small producers outraged at what they see as the corruption of their craft.
"They're trading on the good name of honey to sell their product," Kenosha, Wis., beekeeper Tim Fulton said of phony honey peddlers.
Ambrose said the North Carolina board — formed by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the state Beekeepers Association — won't be a "honey patrol."
The board will instead respond to complaints about improperly marketed honey, which under state law is now defined as what honeybees produce: no more, no less. Once a complaint has been received, a state-approved lab will test the product. If it's not pure honey, the state can order it to be removed from sale and impose fines for subsequent violations.
"You can go to roadside stands throughout the western part of the state and they'll try to sell you Karo syrup and swear it's sourwood honey," said Charles Heatherly, a North Carolina beekeeper.
Sourwood — Heatherly calls it "the Cadillac of North Carolina honey" — is mostly found in the state's mountainous west. It can cost up to $10 a pound, making it an attractive target for adulteration.
It was a similar impersonation of local honey that provoked Nancy Gentry, a beekeeper who owns Cross Creek Honey in Interlachen, Fla., to launch a bid to get a honey standard not just in her home state, but around the country.
"People were taking raw honey, adding high fructose corn syrup and marketing it as grade A USDA No. 1 honey, but there is no such thing," said Dick Gentry, Nancy's husband and a retired trial lawyer who helped steer the campaign in Florida.
But the real sting in the Florida provision, and in standards adopted in California, Wisconsin and North Carolina, is that it makes it easier to file lawsuits against purveyors of bogus honey.
Agencies have been reluctant to create standards for honey ever since a Michigan jury in 1995 found in favor of a honey processing firm that had been accused of cutting the product with an additive. The jurors said there weren't enough regulations governing honey to make the charge stick and that the government failed to identify the additive.
Under the new laws, it isn't necessary to know out what's being added to honey. Any additive, from cane sugar to corn syrup, deprives it of the label "pure honey."
That could prompt retailers or beekeepers to file more lawsuits.
"For us, it is through the civil courts, then, that we take back the product," Nancy Gentry told an industry group in Fresno, Calif., according to a transcript of her speech. "We crush unscrupulous packers and throw out honey pretenders."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has worked to block the sale of honey contaminated with potentially harmful chemicals, and it's reviewing a petition seeking a national honey standard, spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said.
In the meantime, North Carolina beekeepers promise to keep on the lookout to ensure every jar of honey holds what the label says.
"Some of the people who think they've been buying sourwood all these years have actually been buying corn syrup, and they have no idea what they're missing," Ambrose said.

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