ARCHIVED - Chloramphenicol in Honey



What is the problem?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) detected chloramphenicol in honey labelled as product of Canada. Chloramphenicol is banned for use in food-producing animals, including honey bees, in Canada as well as in a number of other countries.

What products and lots are affected by this recall and where have they been distributed?

We encourage you to visit the  Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA's), Web site where the products affected are listed. These lists are being updated as necessary.

What action has the Government of Canada taken?

On April 14, 2004, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) informed Health Canada that five lots of honey labelled as "Product of Canada" were distributed in British Columbia and were found to contain residues of the banned drug chloramphenicol. The CFIA is monitoring a voluntary food recall for the detection of chloramphenicol in buckwheat honey based on a health risk assessment conducted by Health Canada.

Have there been previous recalls of honey contaminated with chloramphenicol?

In March 2002, during routine testing for drug residues in honey, the CFIA discovered the presence of chloramphenicol in a shipment of honey from China. Health Canada provided the results of a Health Risk Assessment to CFIA advising that the honey poses a low, but serious, health risk. It was recommended that the product detained not be allowed to be sold in Canada; that implicated products that had not been detained be recalled from the marketplace; and that consumers be advised of the risk of consuming the contaminated products.

Recall activities were initiated to remove all honey of Chinese origin and blends containing honey from China from the marketplace. This included honey at the importer, manufacturing and retail levels.

What is the advice to Consumers?

Health Canada and the CFIA are advising consumers not to eat any honey originating from these affected products. Consumers are advised to return it to the store where they purchased it.

Is Chloramphenicol banned in Canada?

This drug is banned for use in food-producing animals in Canada as well as in a number of other countries. However, it is approved for human use in Canada as a last resort drug in the treatment of typhoid fever where no other treatment is available.

What are the effects of Chloramphenicol?

The drug is associated with random cases (one in 30,000 to one in 50,000 persons) of aplastic anaemia, a serious blood disorder for which there is no cure, and which is usually fatal. It is not known why some people contract this condition and others do not and when the condition may arise. It is not dose-related. In addition, there are concerns related to potential carcinogenicity and genotoxicity of the drug as well as the potential to cause antimicrobial resistance.

Why would this honey be risky?

It is not known what a safe dose of Chloramphenicol would be in humans but the use of the contaminated honey over a long period would increase the risk.

What do I do if I've already eaten some of this honey?

Because the risk is low, consumers do not need to take any further action - 2 Tsp of contaminated honey would contain less than one ten-millionth of a daily dose used to treat typhoid fever in adults.

Are there any other food products that may contain chloramphenicol?

Chloramphenicol is banned in Canada for use in food-producing animals and therefore, it is illegal to sell any product containing this drug. If chloramphenicol is detected in food, CFIA takes action to protect consumers.

Are there any other issues about honey that I should know about?

Children under the age of 12 months should not be given honey, since there is a small risk of botulism.

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