Australian honey is most contaminated in the world, research reveals

Krystal Johnson

Australian honey is the most contaminated in the world and contains cancer-causing toxins as a result of lenient food-safety standards, according to new research.

All but five Australian honey brands tested had more contaminants which would not be considered safe or tolerable in Europe.

Research published in the Food Additives and Contaminants scientific journal reveals the majority of honey sold by leading brands in Australian supermarkets have the highest level of this poisonous toxin.

The research reveals the cancer-causing toxin is found naturally in plants and used to ward of insects. Photo: Getty
The research reveals the cancer-causing toxin is found naturally in plants and used to ward of insects. Photo: Getty

This poison is known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which has liver damaging toxins that have serious health consequences for animals and humans when consumed in high quantities.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) have sent out a warning to anyone, including pregnant or breast feeding women, not to consume more than two tablespoons of honey a day and to avoid that made from the plant Paterson’s Curse.

FSANZ told Yahoo7 there is no way to remove the poison from honey, so the action they take is to lower it's count in honey by blending and diluting it.

"Currently there are no methods for removing PAs from honey and removing source plants is not feasible for many areas where apiaries are kept," a spokesperson said.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are reportedly at higher risk of organ damage from such toxins. Photo: Getty
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are reportedly at higher risk of organ damage from such toxins. Photo: Getty

"Contaminants should be kept as low as achievable. Therefore, blending is the most practical way of reducing the levels of PAs to the lowest achievable."

According to other food authorities around the world, this blending is deemed as an unrealistic solution.

The European Food Safety Authority consider 0.0007 micrograms of PA per kilogram of body weight, per day a safe intake to be consuming.

Whereas Australia's standards restrict the recommended intake to 1 microgram.

Australian toxicologist, Dr John Edgar, claims eating these poisons “could be a significant cause of cancer”, Fairfax reported.

“Reducing the contamination in foods such as honey, teas, salads, flour, dairy and herbal products could result in a significant reduction in cancer cases worldwide.”

Although, PSANZ sent out a warning to not ingest Paterson’s Curse honey, the government agency told Yahoo7 the levels of PA found in Australian homes is unlikely to pose a health risk.

The research reveals the cancer-causing toxin is found naturally in plants and used to ward of insects. Photo: Getty
The research reveals the cancer-causing toxin is found naturally in plants and used to ward of insects. Photo: Getty

"For people who eat small amounts of honey, the levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids should not be a cause for concern," the spokesperson said, adding that the toxin in Australia has a lower toxicity than the standard used overseas.

"The predominant PA in Australian and New Zealand honey, echimidene, is of a lower toxicity than the PA used as a standard to set values by some authorities," a FANZ spokesperson said.

Dr Nadine Chapman, from the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney, researches Australian bees and says the industry is aware of the issue and are finding ways to mitigate it.

"To say that Australian honey is the most contaminated in the world is an exaggeration and it depends on the contaminant," she said.

"As Australia does not have the Varroa mite and a number of other pests and diseases, we use less chemicals to manage our bees; we also try to minimise exposure to pesticides.”

In regard to the outcomes of this expert, FSANZ said they will still "reconsider whether the setting of a tolerable daily intake is appropriate for PAs in Australian and New Zealand foods".