Does honey contain antibiotics?

Wild honey is a natural product that does not contain any drug residues. Farmers though may occasionally use antibiotics to treat bees from several bacterial diseases. Antibiotic treatments can be passed from bees to humans via honey and due to that the use of antibiotics in beekeeping is prohibited in some EU countries.

Why honey screening is required?

One of the most dangerous antibiotics, that is used outside the US and EU, is chloramphenicol. This is known to cause aplastic anaemia, a sometimes fatal disease which affects the ability of bone marrow to produce red blood cells. This antibiotic has been found in honey imported from both China and Thailand. In order to prevent import of cheap and potentially dangerous honey from China, EU has set standards for antibiotic residues on honey.

Despite the fact that normally antibiotics are not found in the honey produced by the treated bees, honey producers and beekepers now obliged to perform honey screening to keep it pure from antibiotic residues.

What are the antibiotic residue limits in honey production?

Honey production regulations can vary from country to country. Some countries wouldn’t have strict legislation in place and would provide recommendations on residues rather than laws.
Normally, chloramphenicol is fully prohibited. Other residues that may be regulated and therefore would require testing are oxytetracycline, erythromycin, lincomycin, monensin, streptomycin, enrofloxacin, tetracycline, doxycycline, chlortetracycline, ampicillin and kanamycin.

Some countries, like Switzerland, UK, and Belgium, have established action limits (level of antibiotics in honey beyond which the sample is deemed noncompliant) for antibiotics in honey, which generally lies between 0.01 to 0.05 mg/kg for each antibiotic group.

Who can use antibiotic rapid screening tests?

Honey testing labs, food testing labs, food manufacturers and processors that need to ensure that supplied product us not exceeding Maximum Residue Limits (MRL). Also, beekeepers (honey farmers) can use these tests for on-farm testing which allows to save money by having immediate results on-site instead of taking honey to the lab.