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Antibiotic Found in Imported Honey

August 28, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Traces of an antibiotic was found in some bulk honey shipped from China but detained at U.S. ports, federal authorities said Wednesday.

The discovery was made as part of an investigation into allegations that the honey had been illegally shipped through third-party countries on its way from China to the United States, in an effort to evade U.S. antidumping duties, the U.S. Customs Service said.

That investigation has resulted in more than 50 containers of bulk Chinese honey being detained at U.S. ports, Customs said.

Some of the bulk honey in these containers has tested positive for chloramphenicol, a powerful antibiotic used for human infections, Customs and the Food and Drug Administration said in a joint release Wednesday. The United States bans its use in animals, food and feed products consumed by humans.

``The FDA is unaware at present of contaminated honey being on retail shelves, but is continuing its investigation into this matter,″ the joint release said. ``Thus far, no illnesses have been reported in association with the imported honey.″

It is unknown whether trace amounts of the drug in food would actually harm anyone, an FDA official said.

Customs said it is ``stopping all suspect bulk honey imports to this country for the FDA to determine whether they contain chloramphenicol. Any shipments containing chloramphenicol will be detained.″

In June, the FDA said it had begun tougher testing for residues of the antibiotic in shrimp and crawfish following reports that some seafood with traces of the drug was shipped from China. The agency tightened testing to detect lower levels of the antibiotic.

As part of the government’s antidumping investigation, Customs and FDA agents during the past week executed search warrants on businesses and homes in locations including Los Angeles and Tampa.

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