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UK Food Standards Agency Press Release, 19 February 2002
All jars of Chinese and blended honey (unless not to be of Chinese origin) should be withdrawn from sale, says the UK Food Standard Agency. The call comes in the wake of tests that revealed traces of the antibiotic chloramphenicol in some jars of Chinese and blended honey.
The Agency began the tests on honey because of concerns about a lack of controls on the use of veterinary drugs in China. In the latest results, illegal residues of chloramphenicol were found in ten out of 16 samples. In the EU it is illegal to use chloramphenicol on animals where they, or their products, are destined for human consumption.
A meeting of independent scientific experts, convened by the Agency to assess whether the residues pose a risk to consumers, concluded that the levels found pose an extremely small risk. The main known risk from chloramphenicol relates to aplastic anaemia, a rare but serious blood disorder that affects 50 to 100 people a year in the UK. Chloramphenicol may also be linked to cancer.
The Agency advises that, because of the extremely small risk, people can continue to eat honey they have already bought, regardless of the country of origin. This advice also applies to foods that contain honey, where the risk is even lower.
EUROPEAN UNION LEGISLATION AND HONEY
by Peter Martin, UK
In BfD 59 we gave details of the European Union (EU) Commission legislation to prevent honey containing residues of antibiotics, pyrethroids, organochlorines or heavy metals from being imported into Europe. In this article Peter Martin, an expert honey analyst, provides more information on EU legislation and its relevance to the honey industry around the world.
In 1990 the EU laid down the procedure for establishing maximum residue limits (MRLs) of veterinary drugs in foodstuffs of animal origin. This is to protect consumers and public health. The use of antibiotics leads to the possibility of resistance in target pathogens and must be controlled. The Regulation has four Annexes. Annex I is a list of the substances for which MRLs have been fixed for specified species. None has been fixed for use with bees. Annex II is a list of substances for which no MRL is necessary. In the case of bees, fluvalinate, flumethrin, formic acid, lactic acid, menthol, thymol and mixed oils.
That are all Varroa treatments, are listed. Annex III lists substances for which provisional MRLs have been set. In relation to bees these are Cymiazole, (1000 ppb*), Amitraz (200 ppb) and Coumaphos (100 ppb), again these are all Varroa treatments. "
Annex IV lists the drugs for which no MRLs can be set because the drugs are regarded as too dangerous. These drugs are chloramphenicol, (the drug found recently in Chinese honey that has led to the ban on import of all Chinese honey into the EU), nitrofurans including furazolidone, ronidazole, dapsone, dimetridazole, colchicine, chlorpromazine, chloroform and metronidazole.
Antibiotics such as streptomycin, tetracyclines, penicillins and sulphonamides have MRLs for use on large animals but are illegal for use with bees except under the guidance of a veterinarian when tetracyclines may be used for European foulbrood. In that case no honey can be harvested until the expiry of a withdrawal period for example, two months. At present application of the law in relation to these safer antibiotics is not harmonised in EU member states. Some countries reject honey containing above the limit of detection of those drugs while others apply an Action Level such as 50 ppb. However, it must be stressed that the presence of these drugs in honey is illegal at any level. That situation may change if it proves possible to obtain MRLs for their use in beekeeping. It is essential that all beekeepers avoid the use of Annex IV drugs, both to protect consumers wherever they are and to protect the good name and selling of honey. Very low levels of these drugs can be detected and the honey from one beekeeper could contaminate a large, amount of honey if it is being combined for bulk export. Such, honey will be destroyed if found in the EU.
Beekeepers everywhere should use good husbandry rather than drugs to keep their bees healthy.
(*ppb= parts per billion)