Antibiotic Chloramphenicol in Chinese Imported Honey

We may live in a small world, but within that small world are many different sets of national regulations. Whether it’s lead or cadmium found in toys or glasses, or melamine plastic in pet food, we are all too often unwittingly exposed to things that shock us once we discover the truth. Now add imported honey tainted with drugs to the ever-growing list of products to be wary of, or at least aware of.
generic chloramphenicol imageLast month, The Food and Drug Administration seized 64 drums of tainted honey from a Philadelphia distribution centre. “According to FDA sources the honey was imported from China, and contained the potent anti-biotic Chloramphenicol* which could lead to serious illness or death. Food safety specialists say that the anti-biotic was likely used to treat diseased hives – which is not legal in the US. According to the World Trade organization, China is the leading exporter of honey.”

China is actually responsible (interesting word choice) for about 25% of the world’s total honey production – about 300,000 metric tonnes (660 million pounds) a year.

26-10-honeybeeAnd guess what? “Even though the United States has a relatively booming domestic honey business, it still imports the vast majority of its commercially sold honey, most of which comes from China.”

Food safety expert with Rutgers University, Dr. Donald Schaffner has said that the increasing amounts of food products imported into the United States poses some risk to consumers. “Unfortunately, I have heard food production In China as being likened to the days of the Wild West here, where sometimes people skirt the law, or play right up against the edge of the law.”

And it doesn’t stop there. The Associated Press recently reported June 30th 2010 that, “Businessman Yan Yongxiang was trying to get around stiff U.S. levies on imports of cheap [cheaper honey also often gets passed of as more expensive varieties] Chinese honey. So he sent 15 shipping containers of cut-rate honey to the Philippines, where it was relabeled and sent on to the United States. There’s even a name for this, one that would be amusing were it not so scary. Honey-laundering.

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And in this particular case, “the subterfuge let Yan skirt $656,515 in taxes before he was caught in a bust and pleaded guilty. Yan’s factory in central China’s Henan province even filtered the metals and pollen from the honey so that U.S. tests would not show it came from China, according to the 60-year-old’s plea agreement. Now he awaits sentencing in a U.S. jail.”

As if we needed another reason for the 100-mile diet. Buying local, and farm fresh direct sounds pretty sweet.

* Chloramphenicol is approved for medical use but banned in food products because in rare cases it can cause aplastic anemia, a potentially fatal illness. And it’s now known that indiscriminate use of antibiotics leads to the increase of antibiotic resistant bugs that no longer respond to the drugs – making antibiotics ineffective when we really need them.

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