2013-08-27 14:40:22 - Humans have been collecting honey for food, for more than 8,000 years and production is on the increase. Today though, honey contamination, adulteration and honey-bee colony losses pose a raft of twentieth century challenges.
Honey’s properties as a natural product make it very popular. However, bee products are polluted via different sources of contamination. The main concerns for the industry relate to pesticides, antibiotics and microorganisms.
Honey’s Numerous Contaminants
Pesticides are used to control bee diseases and pests in apiculture with uncontrolled administration and application without approved protocols. The use of chemicals inside a beehive risks direct contamination of honey. Uncontrolled application can cause contamination to the environment, animals and humans. More than 150 different pesticides have been identified in colony samples.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial diseases in the hive. As a result, traces can be found in the honey itself. Antibiotic residues are predominantly the result of improper beekeeping practices and have been found
to be above the regulatory standards for food.
Bacteria, moulds and yeast microbes are also found in honey. They can affect honey quality and safety. Fortunately, most bacteria and microbes cannot grow or reproduce in honey but spore forming microorganisms can survive in honey for a long time.
Honey & Beekeeping - Sources of Contamination
Types of Honey Contamination
- Environmental contaminants.
- Heavy metals.
- Radioactive isotopes.
- Organic pollutants.
- Pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and bactericides).
- Pathogenic bacteria.
- Genetically modified organisms.
Source: The Scientific World Journal, Article ID 930849 ( www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2012/930849/
Cases of Honey Adulteration and Contamination
Because of its high nutritional value and unique flavor, the price of natural bee honey is relatively much higher than that of other sweeteners, and susceptible to adulteration with cheaper sweeteners. Sugar syrups and molasses inverted by acids or enzymes from corn, sugar cane, sugar beet and syrups of natural origin such as maple have all been detected in adulterated honeys.
In recent years, the market has seen the introduction of legislation to ensure honey quality and consumer safety in major markets. Between 2002 and 2004 honey originating from China was banned in the EU, due to contamination with antibiotics. In 2001, the USA introduced an anti-dumping duty on Chinese honey, which was linked to the EU ban. According to a 2011 US report, there is strong suspicion that a considerable portion of imports from India are of Chinese origin raising the need for identification of geographical origin.
Honey Export Regulations
Supporting these policies, the EU and USA have introduced regulations to guide and qualify exporters before honey can be traded to these important markets.
In the EU, exporters must meet the requirements of European Commission Regulations No 178/2002, No 852/2004 and No 853/2004 and have an HACCP ( www.sgs.com/en/Consumer-Goods-Retail/Food/Primary-Production/Oth ..
) based food safety system implemented. Maximum residue limits (MRL) for pesticides are listed in Regulation No 396/2005. The EU’s standard for antibiotics in food stipulates that each antibiotic must have an MRL, as listed in Regulation No 37/2010 before it can be used on a food-producing species. However, there are no MRLs for honey, which means the use of antibiotics for the treatment of honey-bees is not allowed. All honey exported to the EU must be monitored for residues in compliance with Directive 96/23/ EC. Moreover, the honey must be the product of one of the countries allowed to send honey to the EU.
In the US, there are no import restrictions specific to honey. However, exporters must comply with US food standards in relation to food safety and the use of additives and veterinary medicines. MRLs for antibiotics in food are set by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).
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