FDA seizes Chinese honey tainted with dangerous animal antibiotic

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and federal marshals have seized 64 drums of honey imported from China tainted with a potent and potentially lethal antibiotic.

The FDA says it tested a honey sample and found it contained chloramphenicol, an antibiotic approved only for use in humans with serious infections when other "less toxic" drugs won't work. People who are sensitive to the drug can develop a bone marrow condition which could be fatal. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also found the drug causes cancer.

The honey, seized at a Philadelphia distribution center June 4, was imported by Sweet Works Inc. of Monterey Park, Calif. from Cheng Du Wai Yuan Bee Products Co. Ltd. of Chengdu, China. It was sold to sold to Alfred L. Wolff Inc. of Chicago, which put it in storage.

Sweet Works couldn't be located for comment. Alfred L. Wolff Inc. didn't respond immediately to an email and its website and phone numbers were offline today.

The FDA is continuing its investigation and is now taking inventory of the honey, valued at $32,000.

Chloramphenicol is used by veterinarians and given to bees and sometimes other animals to protect them from disease. The substance has been occasionally found in honey from Canada, Ukraine, and China in 2002. In that case, 50 containers of bulk honey were seized, thought to have been exported to the U.S. via other countries to avoid U.S. trade barriers.

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