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Honey products found to contain antibiotics

Background

The Consumer Council (CC) conducted a survey on honey earlier this year. There were 34 honey products tested for, among others, antibiotics. Results showed that 6 samples contained the antibiotic chloramphenicol.

In response to the CC's referral, the CFS collected 15 samples in addition to the 4 samples of honey found to contain antibiotics by CC (the other 2 samples were no longer available in the market).

Two of these 19 samples of honey collected were found to contain trace amount of chloramphenicol. The two samples found to contain chloramphenicol are a brand of honey product produced in Jiangxi (under batch number 20060424, with "best before" date 24.4.2008) and another brand produced in Zhuhai (with "best before" date 30.6.2008). (Please refer to the Chinese version for the brand names in Chinese.)

Regarding other antibiotics found in the honey samples in trace amount, namely streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole (a kind of sulfonamides) and ciprofloxacin (a kind of quinolone), they can normally be used in food animals.

What is Chloramphenicol?

Chloramphenicol is an antibiotic. The main concern of chloramphenicol is its toxic effects on the bone marrow causing reversible dose-related bone marrow depression, and aplastic anaemia. Chloramphenicol is used for treatment of different infections including eye infection in human. The risk of developing aplastic anaemia with dietary exposure to chloramphenicol at the levels detected is extremely rare. In Hong Kong, chloramphenicol should not be found in food.

Actions taken by the CFS

CFS has asked the retailer and supplier concerned to stop sale of the affected products containing chloramphenicol. The Mainland authority was informed about the test results of the two samples containing chloramphenicol. Under the routine food surveillance of the CFS, 41 samples of honey were taken for antibiotics testing from 2004 to present. Only the above two samples were found to contain chloramphenicol and the rest were all satisfactory.

Advice to local importers and retailers

  • Food importers and retailers are responsible for ensuring that food items they procure comply with the local legislation.

Advice to consumers

  • Purchase honey products from reliable and reputable shops.
  • Maintain a balanced diet in order to avoid excessive exposure to contaminants from a small range of food items.

Further Information

Please visit the following related web pages for further information.
Press release : Honey products tested for antibiotics

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