Leading Indian and foreign brands of honey have high levels of antibiotics, which could pose major health problems and increase resistance to certain drugs, a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed Wednesday.
The study included leading companies such as Dabur, Himalaya and Baidyanath among the 12 brands chosen for testing. Two international brands from Australia and Switzerland were also found to contain levels of antibiotics higher than the prescribed standards.
The sealed samples were all collected in Delhi.
'The tested brands contained high levels of antibiotics, even carcinogens, that can lead to chronic health ailments and bone marrow problems also,' CSE director Sunita Narain told IANS.
The regular consumption of these antibiotics could cause organ damage, especially in children below the age of five. Regular ingestion of antibiotics through honey could lead to consumers becoming resistant to medicines as well, added Narain.
The Exports Inspection Council (EIC) of India has prescribed limits for some antibiotics in honey exported from India, but there are no standards for the domestic market.
The study found three types of antibiotics in Dabur, one of India's largest Ayurvedic companies. This included Oxytetracycline, which was over nine times the EIC limit. Dabur owns over 65 percent of the honey market in India.
Samples from Himalaya Herbal Healthcare also found high levels of three antibiotics.
The antibiotics found in the branded honey bottles include Erythromicin, Ciprofloxacin and various other antibiotics mainly used as growth promoters in cattle.
From a cottage industry, honey manufacturing has now become a large industry with emphasis on producing large quantities.
'Bees are forcibly fed with antibiotics and other harmful growth promoters injected in cattle. This has an ultimate impact on the output from local breeders,' Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of CSE, told IANS.
'Honey business has undergone a major change, which has a direct impact on the health of the consumers,' said Narain.
The CSE head urged the government to prescribe the standards for the domestic honey market.
'The government cannot be biased towards the export companies, while there is no restriction for our domestic market and imported products,' Narain said.