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Food Safety Focus (85th Issue, August 2013) – Food Incident Highlight

Mad Honey Poisoning and Grayanotoxins

Recently, there are local reported cases of "mad honey poisoning" after the victims consumed honey brought from overseas. The poisoning was caused by grayanotoxins that was present in the honey.

Grayanotoxin, which affects the normal functions of muscles and nerves, is a type of neurotoxins naturally occurring in plants belonging to the Ericaceae family, including rhododendrons. Honey produced from these plants may contain grayanotoxin which may present at higher levels when the toxin-containing plants are the major floral source within the harvested area. The honey that contains grayanotoxin may cause a burning sensation in the throat.

Members of the public should buy honey from reliable source and apiary. Honey with bitter or astringent taste should be discarded. Whenever possible, information on the types of flowers used to produce the honey should be sought. Travellers to the Black Sea region of Turkey should pay special attention, as there had been cases of grayanotoxin poisoning reported overseas which were attributed to honey from the area.