by Carol A. Kemper, MD, FACP

Chloramphenicol-Tainted Honey

Source: ProMED-mail. July 13, 2002. promedmail@promedmail.org.

Imported honey is becoming big business. With Third World labor costs being substantially lower, imported honey prices are driving down the costs of United States-produced honey to the lowest levels in years, potentially affecting the numbers of apiarists (with no doubt some negative effect on the numbers of hives farmed out to fields and orchards).

Streptomycin- and chloramphenicol-tainted honey imported from China and Thailand began appearing sometime last year, prompting the European Union and Canada to ban honey imports from China last spring. Nonetheless, a jar of chloramphenicol-contaminated honey was found in a grocery store in Louisiana last summer.

How the honey was discovered there was not revealed, but the honey was tracked back to a producer in Thailand, where 2 55-gallon drums of honey were found to be contaminated with low levels of chloramphenicol. How the antibiotic got there is anyone’s guess, but chloramphenicol has been used in animal feed in some countries for years.

Although the levels were extremely low (5.46 parts per billion) and are not likely to promote resistant or allergic reactions at that level, idiosyncratic reactions, such as bone marrow suppression, are not dose dependent and can occur with very minimal exposure to the drug.

As a result, the FDA has a zero-tolerance level for chloramphenicol in food products. Because honey is used in so many food products, such as cereals, snacks, and granola bars, tainted honey could have a wide impact. The United States has moved to ban all honey imports from China and Thailand unless they have first been sampled and tested.

Problems with Britain’s Pet Scheme

Source: Pro-MED mail. March 8, 2003. promedmail@promedmail.org.

The revised British Pet Travel Scheme (Kemper C. Infectious Disease Alert. 2003;10:80), which eliminated the need for quarantine of pet cats and dogs entering Great Britain from designated host countries, has come under fire from veterinarian researchers.

Recent data collected from 67 dogs and 3 cats entering Great Britain from April 2001 to July 2002 raise concerns that rabies may not be the only reason to consider quarantine of animals. All of the animals had entered the country under the new rules, although 14 dogs and 1 cat required quarantine because of their country of origin or inadequate clearance.

All of the animals were screened for babesiosis, leishmania, and ehrlichiosis. None of the cats showed evidence of infection. However, 24 (36%) of the dogs were infected with one or more pathogen, including 17 dogs that were not quarantined. Babesiosis was the most common pathogen identified, occurring in 10 dogs. Fortunately, dog strains of Babesia do not infect humans, although they can infect other dogs. Six dogs had ehrlichiosis (5 required quarantine), which can potentially infect humans. And at least 4 dogs from Spain had leishmania, which requires the appropriate sandfly vector for transmission, but nonetheless poses a risk. More intensive surveillance has been proposed.

Dr. Kemper is Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Stanford University, Division of Infectious Diseases; Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Section Editor, Updates Section Editor, HIV.