What is Antibiotics in Honey?

Benefit of Pure Honey

Antibiotics are given to honey bees to prevent and treat bacterial diseases such as varroa mites, American foulbrood, European foulbrood, etc., in bee colonies.

Though it is not a parameter for testing honey, FSSAI has introduced this metric to keep its use within limits due to the large scale usage of antibiotics.

The process of giving antibiotics to honey bees:

Generally, beekeepers mix antibiotics with sugar syrup and keep it in the hive for bees to eat to keep them safe from diseases.

However, it will contaminate the honey with antibiotic residues produced from these colonies.

Harmful effects of antibiotics in honey on humans:

Consuming contaminated honey may cause long term health problems among humans. Similarly, it may cause:

  • Disease-associated with blood
  • Kidney ailments
  • Liver problems.
  • Bone and teeth damage

Therefore, the presence of antibiotic residues in honey should be within permissible limits.

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) findings in 2010:

After testing a few honey samples from popular honey brands in India, CSE found high levels of antibiotics in honey available in the market on 10th Sep 2010. The report tells us how the honey was contaminated using antibiotics.

Furthermore, during Honeygate, it was found that the antibiotic used in honey was Chloramphenicol. Similarly, Mayo Clinic USA warned that this antibiotic should be given when the infection is serious and when other medicines don’t work.

So, providing antibiotics to honeybees must be monitored. If ignored, as a result, it may cause some serious health issues.

Exported Honey From India Had Antibiotics in Honey:

Even exported honey to European countries had contained antibiotics in honey. Subsequently, It was tested and reported by food and feed authorities of European countries.

As a result, in order to encourage and promote the export of honey, the Govt. of India set a residue monitoring plan (RMP) to monitor the number of antibiotics.

Moreover, it has made the export inspection council responsible for conducting the test to know the pesticides contamination, antibiotics, and heavy metals in honey before exporting.

Finally FSSAI Introduced Standards in 2012 to control Antibiotics in Honey:

There have been maximum residue limits (MRLs) standards for all foods from animals treated with antibiotics. However, it was unavailable for honey testing before for the domestic market.

Therefore, FSSAI made mandatory amendments to its food safety and standard regulations in 2012 to include the parameter controlling antibiotics. So, let’s know the antibiotics and their limitations in FSSAI Parameters:

Name of the antibioticTolerance limit (Microgram)
Sulphonamides and their metabolites 5.0* (individually or collectively)
Nitrofurans and its metabolites0.5* (individually or collectively)

It has set the standard for antibiotic maximum residue limits (MRLs) in honey, i.e., 5.0 micrograms. Therefore, if any honey sample exceeds the limit will be rejected for sale.


FSSAI parameters for monitoring antibiotics in honey will curb natural honey contamination and end its harmful effects on human health. So, check the other useful information on how to check the purity of honey and how important it is.

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