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Food Safety Focus (155th Issue, June 2019) – Food Incident Highlight

Trace Amount of Antibiotic Metronidazole Found in Honey

In April 2019, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) identified a honey sample containing a trace amount of metronidazole, an antibiotic, under the food surveillance programme.  The CFS has instructed the vendor to stop selling the affected batch of the product.

According to the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, residues of metronidazole or its metabolites may cause significant health concerns. Codex considers that competent authorities should prevent its residues in food.

Honey is produced by bees from floral nectar or honeydew.  Bees, like humans and other animals, are susceptible to infection by bacteria, viruses and parasites.  Some bee diseases such as brood diseases can be treated with antibiotics.  However, antibiotic misuse or inappropriate use of antibiotics (e.g. excessive dose used for treatment or used as growth promoters) may lead to accumulation of antibiotics in honey.  Therefore, traders should ensure that food for sale is fit for human consumption and meets legal requirements, whereas the public are advised to buy honey from reliable vendors and apiary.