PUBLIC HEALTH
June 16, 2010

Feds Seize Tainted Chinese Honey

The FDA has found a potentially fatal drug in honey from China, adding evidence to support growing concern in Washington.

On June 10th, 2010, the FDA announced that it had seized 64 drums of honey from a Pennsylvania storage facility because samples had been found to contain an antibiotic, chloramphenicol, which can lead to serious health problems and even death. Chloramphenicol is prohibited not only as an additive in food for human consumption, but it is also banned from animal feed and in use in food-animals.

The drug can cause a fatal type of anemia, called aplastic anemia, which is a “bone marrow depression,” and, according to the FDA, can be fatal in certain people.

According to the FDA, chloramphenicol is approved for human use only when other, “less toxic” medications are not effective. The drug can cause a fatal type of anemia, called aplastic anemia, which is a “bone marrow depression,” and, according to the FDA, can be fatal in certain people.

The seized honey had been imported from China, which has previously been criticized for “honey laundering.” In fact, only two days before the Pennsylvania honey confiscation was announced, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York had released an official plea to the FDA and other federal agencies to “crack down” on Chinese honey exporters, whose shady practices take away business from honest U.S. honey producers.

Ten years ago, the FDA had added levies to Chinese-produced honey after discovering “predatory trade practices” associated with Chinese honey manufacturing. According to Schumer’s press release, many of these manufacturers had skirted the duties by mislabeling their honey shipments or by pushing them through other countries first, so they would be exempt from the American taxes.

Schumer said that, “[t]his is just one more example of China playing by its own rules to the detriment of every else. Instead of simply selling their product in a fair and competitive way, the Chinese are using illegal, backdoor deliveries and mislabeling their product to accomplish their goal. Today I am calling on the federal government to issue a stinging rebuke to these practices, and once again level the playing field.”

Responding the recent seizure of the tainted honey, Schumer commended the FDA for their speedy response, but adds that “this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to honey laundering. We urge the FDA to do a large-scale sweep of similar shipments from China because we are sure they will find many more illegal batches of smuggled honey.”

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