Rules for Selling Honey
The Department of State Health Services has adopted the latest FDA guidance (7th edition) published in August 2018 regarding Food Facility Registration with respect to raw honey.
The FDA Guidance reads:
B.1.19 Am I required to register if I extract and bottle honey produced on my farm (i.e., remove the wax seal and spin the honey out of the honeycomb, then bottle the honey)?
No. Many activities associated with beekeeping and honey production are within the “farm” definition and therefore do not require registration. In this case, extracting honey is considered harvesting and bottling honey is packaging a RAC (a raw agricultural commodity), which is a type of manufacturing/processing included within the “farm” definition.
As a result of this decision, beekeepers selling raw honey in Texas will no longer be required to obtain a Food Manufacturer’s license and comply with the related requirements (i.e. licensed honey house, etc.) Since there is no requirement to obtain a Food Manufacturer’s license, the statute exempting small-scale beekeepers is moot, and limitations specific to that statute will no longer be in effect.
The FAQs below are copied from the DSHS Manufactured Foods website: https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/foods/faqs.aspx (scroll to the bottom of the page)
Department of State Health Services Consumer Protection Division- Manufactured Foods Beekeeper Honey Production Frequently Asked Questions - July 15, 2020
1. Did anything change for beekeepers selling honey in Texas with the adoption of the updated 25 TAC 229.210-225 Subchapter N, Current GMP, and GWP in Manufacturing, Packing or Holding Human Food that became effective August 2, 2017?
Yes, beekeepers that sell raw honey produced from their own bees/hives are “farms” and are exempt from licensing as food manufacturers when engaged in allowable farm activities. Examples of allowable farm activities include extracting and bottling raw honey whether for retail or wholesale. DSHS adopts the clarification provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its Questions and Answers Regarding Food Facility Registration (Seventh Edition): Guidance for Industry in Question B.1.19.
2. Is pasteurization of raw honey an allowable farm activity?
No, pasteurizing raw honey is a manufacturing activity that requires a license as a food manufacturer. DSHS adopts the clarification provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its Questions and Answers Regarding Food Facility Registration (Seventh Edition): Guidance for Industry in Question C.4.3.
3. Are there any laws that apply to beekeeper raw honey producers?
Yes, while beekeepers harvesting raw honey will not be required to license with DSHS as long as they are only engaged in allowable farm activities, harvesting operations that conduct filtering, packaging, and labeling of honey are still subject to the adulteration and misbranding provisions of Texas Health and Safety Code 431. Texas Agriculture Code, Title 6, Chapter 131, Bees and Honey, Subchapter E, Labeling, and Sale of Honey gives DSHS regulatory authority over the labeling of honey. DSHS will investigate complaints of adulterated honey and mislabeled honey and take appropriate compliance action.
4. Can a beekeeper blend other raw honey into raw honey from their own bees/hives?
Yes, as long as some of the raw honey is from the beekeeper’s own bees/hives, a beekeeper can blend other raw honey with the beekeeper’s honey. If you blend honey no longer considered raw, like pasteurized honey, blending is no longer an exempt farm activity and a food manufacturer license is required.
5. Is allowing raw honey to dry so that it crystallizes an allowable farm activity for beekeepers?
Yes, a beekeeper drying raw honey from their bees/hives is an allowable farm activity as long as there is no additional manufacturing/processing (other than packaging and labeling). Packaging and labeling raw agricultural commodities are allowable farm activities.
What does all this mean?
(Editorial Comment) Dodie Stillman, Texas Beekeeper Association Area 1 Director and a member of WCABA, forwarded this information to me that the TBA will be sharing in their next newsletter about selling honey laws.
When asking her opinion she said, “this is not widely known at this point...there hasn’t been much publicity about it...mostly because TBA was waiting for the FAQ to be posted online.” When asked how this might affect her way of doing business (beekeeping) she added, “It’s not going to change my extracting or handling process (because) I don’t have enough hives to get 1,000 lbs, much less the old limit of 2,500.” “But everyone that was thinking of building a honey house can rethink the expense now.”
She admitted that the downside is self-regulation; hoping that beekeepers will be vigilant to still use sterile/clean bottles and practice approved bottling methods (excellent point). Be mindful as you might relax when it comes to your honey processing that all of the above is directed toward raw honey and “farm activities” and any “processing” of the honey is still under rules and regs that remain in place. Make sure you know the difference.