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Sunday, September 19, 2010

GOSH: Ontario couple found guilty of honey laundering

U.S. federal grand jury indicts 11 German and Chinese executives for conspiring to illegally import US$40-million of honey from China – News item, Sept 2, 2010.




TRAWNA – (GOSH Wine News Services) – Sam and Ella Miele have been found guilty of "honey laundering" by importing unregulated honey from China.


Brett Grimsby has been covering this story for GOSH Wine News Services ever since he dug up information that the Mieles were using the honey to add botrytis to their white wines.


Said Grimsby: "Honey is a tightly controlled substance in Ontario, A Have-Not Province  – it is a necessary product for mead wines. Every speck of honey must be accounted for."


The Mieles claim that they were only trying to use the honey to add complexity to their wines. "We meant no harm", said Sam.


But false labelling practices coupled with use of unregulated honey loaded with bacteria and antibiotics led to their downfall.


"It is good to see law enforcement take seriously the problem of illegal honey imports," said a spokesperson from Agriculture Canada. "Now we also need the FDA to weigh in with a national honey standard to make sure this crackdown on Chinese imports sticks."


There was no immediate reaction from the Apple Growers Association of Canada.


An angry Ella said, "Our botrytis-affected whites have all been award winners – the All Canadians, the Ontario Wine Awards, and the Canadian Wine Awards. We got Double Gold each time. We made damn good wine with the honey and grapes. We'd still be in this business if we could've used Ontario honey. But there wasn't any! It was all bought up by the big guys, leaving nothing for small businesses like us. We were forced to import from China! They made us do it!!"


When asked how he found the story, Grimsby said he just followed the money, er, honey. There was a rumour that the botrytis was not natural, and Grimsby checked it out. One thing led to another, and he scanned manifests for provincial honey allocations and then for imported honey allocations. The road led to Sam and Ella Miele.


More on this story after sentencing next Thursday…


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