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China dumps contaminated honey in SA


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Mar. 24

Countless litres of Chinese honey already consumed in South Africa over the past four years were contaminated with a dangerous antibiotic suspected of causing liver cancer and a potentially fatal rare blood disorder, South African beekeepers have warned.

The possible side effects of the antibiotic chloramphenicol - which was found in German, then British imports of Chinese honey in 2002 - are so serious that it is usually prescribed by doctors only for severe infections and typhoid fever.

The antibiotic is used to treat honeybees for diseases like European foulbrood - similar to diarrhoea, which kills bees through body-fluid loss - but many Chinese producers are believed to overdose even healthy hives as a preventive measure, leaving potentially toxic traces in the honey harvest.

The discovery of antibiotic residues in Chinese honey led to a two-year European Union ban on the importation of the expensive sticky stuff in 2002. The EU ban was followed by others, including the United States and Canada - but South Africa began testing for antibiotics in honey only three years later, in 2005.

Of concern to South African consumers is that the South African Bee Industry Organisation (Sabio) has claimed that after the ban, China tried to sell its shipments of contaminated Chinese honey that had been becalmed on the high seas to various Latin American countries, but it was rejected on health grounds - before finally finding a market in South Africa in 2002.

"We believe the contaminated honey came in over a period of four years from 2002 until 2006," says Sabio president Dr Adriaan du Toit.

"But we have no idea what volumes we are talking about and the Department of Agriculture [which enforces the irradiation of imported honey against the eggs or larvae of pests] has refused to make available to us the brand names that it was sold under".

Dries Pretorius, the director of food control at the Department of Health, says the department picked up on the chloramphenicol threat in 2003 from websites that it monitors such as the World Health Organisation's International Food Safety Authorities Network.

His predecessor, Theo van Deventer, issued instructions on February 28 2003 for imported honey to be tested. But it took some time to set up the necessary laboratories, so testing began only in 2005.

"We believe that all the contaminated honey has already been consumed," says Pretorius.

He adds that his directorate, in conjunction with all nine provincial health departments, will now conduct a national sampling for antibiotic-contaminated honey.


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Thanks Owl. I'll stay on the look out for dirt cheap Sth African deals for leftover Chinese honey. God, what's being fed to bees everywhere else?

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honey bees are dying at an alarming rate in the US ....as goes the honey bee so goes the food chain...

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