Contaminated honey? - The Borneo Post - Friday, 22 February, 2002

KUCHING: A study will be launched into honey products from China by the Sarawak Medical Services and Health Department to detect contaminants that can cause serious health problems.

The department's move was in light of the decision of health authorities in the United Kingdom to withdraw from sale all Chinese-pro duced honey after trials found that much of it was contaminated by harmful antibiotics.

State Health Director Dr Yao Sik Chi said yesterday the department's Senior Food Technologist would be instructed to carry out the study and he would take samples from the shelves.

"If we find that they are products that are contaminated, the department can ask that the product be withdrawn from the market," he said, adding that the focus of the study would be on brands similar to that withdrawn in the United Kingdom.

Yao had learnt of the contamination from a newspaper article from the United Kingdom that said tests had found that some products contained the powerful antibiotic, chloramphenicol and also streptomycin.

The Daily Mail had reported that the chloramphenicol was a trigger for a rare but serious blood disorder that affects up to 100 people in Britain every year and it had also been linked to leukemia.

The withdrawal of the contaminated honey from the market was ordered by Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA). Among the products named in the article were Tesco Finest Acacia Honey, Tesco Pure Set Honey and Bee's Queen.

The report also said that the antibiotics were used in sprays by Chinese beekeepers to keep down bacterial infection of beehives.

The FSA's original approach, some two weeks ago, was to remove only batches of Chinese honey which tested positive for the contaminants but it adopted a blanket ban after the problem was found to be widespread.

Checks by The Borneo Post in three leading supermarkets found none of the said brands being sold here but there are honey products imported from China.