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Antibiotics found in honey brands
- product from 10 companies show impurity

New Delhi, Sept. 15: Several brands of honey sold in India have unacceptable levels of antibiotics that may harm human health and drive the emergence of drug resistance in microbes, a non-government environmental watchdog has said.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has said it has detected antibiotics beyond acceptable levels in nine out of 10 branded honey samples from local manufacturers. Two imported brands contained even higher levels of antibiotics, it said.

A CSE investigation has also revealed that government food safety regulators have for years turned a blind eye to antibiotics in honey sold in India, while another arm of the government has blocked exports of antibiotic-tainted honey. “The government has an elaborate mechanism to regulate honey intended for exports, but appears not to care about the health and safety of Indian consumers,” said Sunita Narain, director of the CSE, who released the study’s findings today.

The levels of antibiotics detected in the honey samples are small — ranging from 3.7 micrograms per kg to 250 micrograms per kg. At the highest level, exposure from swallowing a spoon of 20gm of honey would mean intaking about 5 micrograms of antibiotics.

Microbiologists said a typical adult dose of an antibiotic is about 500 milligrams which is 1000 times higher.

“The direct health impacts of such tiny doses of antibiotics on humans is unclear,” said Jug Sharan Virdi, a professor of microbiology at the University of Delhi South Campus, who was not associated with the CSE study.

“Antibiotics in honey will reach the bacteria in our guts and sustained long-term exposure to tiny doses of antibiotics is the perfect recipe for drug resistance,” Virdi told The Telegraph.

The CSE said it detected antibiotics in samples of honey sold by Dabur, Himalaya, Mehsons, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Khadi, Himflora, Gold and Umang. Samples of one Indian brand — Hitkari — did not reveal any antibiotics.

The bee-keeping industry uses antibiotics to combat diseases in honeybees, according to the CSE.

Dabur and Himalaya declined comment on the findings of the CSE study. “But there is no difference between the honey we sell in India and the honey we sell abroad,” the Dabur official added.

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