Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Antibiotic Use May Harm Honey's Reputation as Miracle Drug

Honey Laundering: Antibiotic Use Could Taint Reputation as a Miracle Drug
By Andrew Schneider, Seattle Post-Intelligencer (USA), 12/29/2008

The United States imports most of its honey and for years China was the biggest supplier.

But in 1997, a contagious bacterial epidemic raced through hundreds of thousands of Chinese hives, infecting bee larvae and slashing the country's honey production by two-thirds.

Chinese beekeepers had two choices: They could destroy infected hives or apply antibiotics. They chose to do the latter.

That was a mistake, said Michael Burkett, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University and an internationally known authority on bees and honey.

"You hear about people shooting themselves in the foot? Well, the Chinese honey-sellers shot themselves in the head," he said.

The Chinese opted to use chloramphenicol, an inexpensive, broad-spectrum antibiotic that's so toxic it's used to treat only life-threatening infections in humans -- and then only when other alternatives have been exhausted.

"That's on the big no-no list," Burkett said. "In the U.S., Canada and the European Union, chloramphenicol is on everyone's zero-tolerance list."

Now, 11 years later, some of the honey buyers who take the trouble to test for it still find the banned antibiotic in some of their imported honey…

As the world's oldest sweetener, the amber syrup has been heralded by grandmothers, nannies, nurses, tribal medicine men and physicians around the globe.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, prescribed honey for its nutritional and pharmaceutical value.

The index of medical and scientific journals at the National Medical Library in Bethesda, Md., lists hundreds of studies exploring honey's value in treating, controlling or preventing diabetes, Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, stress, skin conditions, sexual problems and scores of other maladies.

Honey makes a natural antibacterial agent, in part because of its high sugar content and acidity, and many Third World countries still use it to treat burns and wounds.

See: Honey laundering: A Sticky Trail of Intrigue and Crime

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So why is it that only some honey buyers are taking the trouble testing for it? Of course the not testing things properly, or ignoring the results is is quite common around the world for honey, and no doubt many food products. For example the EU has stated regulations for HMF in honey - an indication of heating being done - but then the food standards people won't take any action when they find product that is significantly above the allowed levels. Consumers have every right to be suspicious of the quality of their food.