Honeylaundering: murky side of sweet business

A study by Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) finds high levels of antibiotics in leading brands of honey sold in Delhi


Nectar, a symbol of well-being – the honey that millions buy believing it is pure, natural and healthy - is contaminated with high levels of antibiotics, fed to bees and is bad for our health.

This is the finding of a new study done by Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) Pollution Monitoring Laboratory, which had earlier tested colas for pesticides and toys for poisonous chemicals.

The study, which tested leading brands of honey, found high levels of antibiotics – from the banned chloramphenicol to broad spectrum ciprofloxacin and erythromycin – in almost all brands sold in the market.

The leading Indian honey producers - Dabur, Baidyanath, Patanjali Ayurveda, Khadi, Himalaya – all had two-four antibiotics in their products, much above the stipulated standards.

But what is even worse and shows the regulatory double-standards is that the two foreign brands tested by CSE – from Australia and Switzerland – had high levels of antibiotics and would certainly be illegal in their own countries.

“It is clear that foreign companies are taking advantage of the lack of regulations in India.

After all, if our government does not care about the health of its people, why should these companies care?” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE, at the release of the study’s findings here today. “We have standards for antibiotic contamination in the honey we export.

Government even tests and certifies that exported honey meets health and safety regulations. But we do not have any standards for domestic honey. This is clearly unacceptable.”

Besides the presence of the contaminants, investigations by CSE has also exposed the murky underbelly of the international honey trade, where fraud, deceit and illegal trade practices rule the roost.

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