Cancer-causing antibiotics found in two honey brands

July 17, 2018 16:29
The Consumer Council said some samples of honey brands were also found to be adulterated with foreign sugars. Photo: HKEJ

The Consumer Council has urged the government to act immediately on substandard honey products after its tests found cancer-causing ingredients in two brands.

Releasing the findings Tuesday, the consumer watchdog said it had tested 45 honey samples, including 35 general honey and 10 Manuka honey products, to see if their safety and quality conform with the standards of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CODEX), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Honey Commission (IHC), the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Hero Natural Bee Honey, from Egypt, and Ta Miaw Ko Natural Honey, from Taiwan, both classified as general honey, were found to contain carcinogenic antibiotic residues, the council said.

Hero, which costs HK$41 per 360g bottle, was found to have up to eight antibiotics, including metronidazole which has been proven to be carcinogenic when tested on laboratory animals. Sale of the brand has been banned locally.

The product, although branded in Egypt, is suspected to have come from China, based on the results of a pollen test conducted by a German laboratory commissioned by the council.

Ta Miaw Ko Natural Honey, which is priced at HK$135 per 700g bottle, was found to contain two antibiotics including nitrofurans, a genotoxic carcinogen that could affect the male reproductive system and possibly induce genetic mutation.

As the Taiwanese product still being sold in the market, the council has notified the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) to pursue the case.

Based on CODEX standards, honey should not be adulterated with foreign sugars or other substances. But seven samples were detected to have foreign sugar adulteration, including six general honey and one Manuka honey products.

One sample from Taiwan was found to contain C4 plant sugar that mainly comes from sweet corns and sugar cane syrup, while the Manuka honey sample, priced at HK$1,090 a bottle, was also found to contain foreign sugars.

Manuka honey, which is claimed to have antibacterial properties, is becoming popular in Hong Kong in recent years.

The council slammed makers of honey products who mislead consumers by passing off low-cost syrup as natural honey, and urged the industry to address the serious problem.

Meanwhile, the CFS said that in its own tests of 130 honey samples, conducted between 2015 and last month, only one contained a tiny amount of antibiotic.

It said it has stopped the sale of questionable products upon the council's request.

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