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Antibiotic-Tainted Honey Seized in Philadelphia

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on June 10 announced the seizure of more than $32,000 worth of bulk honey in a distribution center located at 700 Pattison Avenue in Philadelphia.

The FDA requested federal marshals to seize 64 drums of imported bee's honey stored at the distribution center on June 4, after it learned that the product was contaminated with a potent antibiotic that could lead to serious illness or even death.

The bulk honey was imported by Sweet Works Inc., based out of Monterey Park, California from Cheng Du Wai Yuan Bee Products Company Limited of Chengdu, China. The tainted product was later sold to Alfred L Wolff Inc. of Chicago, which stored the product at the distribution center in question.

At the request of the FDA, the U.S. marshals obtained a warrant from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; they then raided the facility.

The bulk honey is considered adulterated under 21 U.S.C. 342(a)(2)(C) of the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, because it contains an unsafe food additive.

A sample from the facility tested positive for chlorampgenicol; this antibiotic is banned from being used in food, feed, or food-producing animals in the U.S.

The FDA is not exaggerating the potential risk. In the U.S., the antibiotic is only indicated to treat serious infections that other, less toxic, drugs are unable to help.

According to the agency, people who are sensitive to chloramphenicol can develop a type of bone marrow depression called aplastic anemia, which can be deadly.

"Unapproved food additives in the U.S. food supply are of significant concern to the agency," said Michael Chappell, the FDA’s acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. 

"The FDA took this action because of the potential serious public health effects of this product."

Rumor has it that antibiotics and hormones are used by some producers in the farming of fish and shrimp in China.

Jimmy Downs and editing by Rachel Stockton

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