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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 15:56 GMT
Honey tainted by antibiotics
Bee
Tests revealed tiny amounts of antibiotics
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is calling for the withdrawal from sale of all jars of Chinese and blended honey.

Tests were carried out following concerns about a lack of control on the use of veterinary drugs in China.

They revealed traces of an antibiotic called chloramphenicol in ten out of 16 samples.


We are not saying don't eat Chinese and blended honey, because there is an extremely low risk

Food Standards Agency
In larger doses chloramphenicol can cause cancer.

It is also considered a contributory factor in developing aplastic anaemia, a rare but serious blood disorder that affects 50 to 100 people a year in the UK.

A team of independent scientific experts convened to assess the risk to the consumer concluded that it was extremely small.

The FSA's advice is that people can continue to eat any honey they have already bought, irrespective of country of origin.

It is estimated that between a third and a half of all blended honey on sale in the UK comes from China. Approximately 80% of honey consumed in the UK is blended.

A spokeswoman for the FSA said: "We are not saying don't eat Chinese and blended honey, because there is an extremely low risk.

"But we are saying chloramphenicol is illegal and undesirable so we are calling for the withdrawal of Chinese and blended honey."

Retailers

The Honey Association has advised all its members to withdraw any blends containing Chinese honey from sale, and to seek alternative sources of honey until acceptable standards of monitoring are introduced in China.

In a statement, the association said: "This will obviously have pricing implications throughout the industry, but it is of paramount importance to all members to maintain consumer confidence in honey overall as a natural, energy-giving food."

All existing stocks of Chinese honey in the UK will now undergo very stringent tests and will only be released for production if they fully comply with the EU standards.

The voluntary testing programme will also apply to industrial blends containing Chinese honey (which are often blended in production), as well as shipments from China already on the sea when the EU suspension was put into effect.

See also:

16 May 00 | UK
GM pollen found in honey
09 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Give a bee a good home
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