Bee Careful

Sam Capasso

I was recently made aware that Illinois is taking bees the only way they should be taken: seriously.  In the middle of July this past summer, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed Public Act 96-1028 into law, becoming effective starting January 1, 2011. The law protects bees and their keepers by adding and changing a few definitions in the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (IFDCA) , the Criminal Code of 1961, and the Sanitary Food Preparation Act (SFPA).

First, the Department of Public Health may no longer regulate honey that is in the comb or that is removed from the comb and in an unadulterated condition under the provisions of the IFDCA and the SFPA.  Also, producers engaged in the sale of honey at a local market, packing or selling less than 500 gallons of honey per year in Illinois, are exempt from Sanitary Food Preparation Act and so  the Department of Public Health may not regulate or inspect the producer’s honey house.  

Second, it amends the Criminal Code of 1961 to include honey in the definition of “raw agricultural commodity.”  This results in it being covered by the definition of “endangering the food supply” where it says “expose any raw agricultural commodity, animal feed, or processed food to any contaminant or contagious or infectious disease.” Here is the interesting bit: endangering the food supply is a terrorist act in Illinois. Therefore, exposing honey to a contaminant is a terrorist act.

I think this is really quite interesting. Imagine if a coal plant was nearby and some fly ash somehow got into the honey. It would be a tough sell to get a prosecutor to then call the coal company “terrorists” but the attempt alone would likely get some interesting press.

The most important consequence here is that small apiaries can’t be deemed nuisances by the Illinois Department of Public Health, though other means of being declared a nuisance would continue to stand. This reduces financial risk and likely will result in more people taking up beekeeping. That will likely have a net positive effect as people will be able to produce their own honey for personal use and low-volume sale while simultaneously providing valuable pollination to gardeners and farmers. Native bee populations may fare a little worse, but colony collapse disorder seems to be keeping that in check.

So, foodies and local-vores rejoice! Your supply of farmer’s market honey is more secure. Those bent on taking down the Union by damaging honey production (and those allergic to bee stings), bee careful.

2 Responses

  1. I believe most jars of “raw honey ” are labeled as such and should be. Many people prefer and seek out raw, unprocessed honey, especially from local beekeepers, because the product is derived from local plant sources. This is a PERSONAL choice. If others prefer processed honey, that is their choice as well.

  2. The law doesn’t require honey to be raw or processed. It takes no direct action with regards to that dichotomy. It simply prohibits regulations on small producers of honey, effectively puts a stamp of approval on raw honey, and criminalizes the contamination of honey.

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