The Agency began the tests on honey because of concerns about a lack of controls on the use of veterinary drugs in China. In the latest results, illegal residues of chloramphenicol were found in 10 out of 16 samples. In the EU it is illegal to use chloramphenicol on animals where they, or their products, are destined for human consumption.
A meeting of independent scientific experts, convened by the Agency to assess whether the residues pose a risk to consumers, concluded that the levels found pose an extremely small risk. The main known risk from chloramphenicol relates to aplastic anaemia, a rare but serious blood disorder that affects 50 to 100 people a year in the UK. Chloramphenicol may also be linked to cancer.
The Agency advises that, because of the extremely small risk, people can continue to eat honey they have already bought, regardless of the country of origin. This advice also applies to foods that contain honey, where the risk is even lower.