In 2002 Food watchdogs ordered all Chinese-produced honey to be withdrawn from sale after trials found that much of it is contaminated by antibiotics.Forty per cent of the honey sold in the UK comes from China.
Tests of 16 pots found that ten contained the powerful antibiotic chloramphenicol.
The chemical is a trigger for aplastic anaemia, a rare but serious blood disorder which affects up to 100 people in Britain each year. It has also been linked to leukaemia.
The news comes just two weeks after the Food Standards Agency told leading supermarkets to withdraw specific batches of own-brand honey produced in China which were found to be contaminated with another antibiotic, streptomycin.
The sudden withdrawal of all Chinese honey threatens to cause a UK shortage.
Two Tesco Finest Acacia Honey jars tested positive for chloramphenicol. One also contained traces of streptomycin.
A pot of Tesco Pure Set Honey also tested positive for both.
Two jars of Sainsbury’s ownbrand honey and a Gales product tested positive for both.
Honey from Rowse, Bee’s Queen and Asda also tested positive for at least one of the chemicals.
It is understood that the antibiotics are used in sprays by Chinese beekeepers to keep down bacterial infection of beehives.
The country’s shambolic food safeguards system means there is no proper testing to ensure illegal residues do not get into food.
The FSA’s original approach was to remove only batches of Chinese honey which tested positive for illegal contaminants.
However, it adopted a blanket ban because the problem appears to be so widespread.
Concern about potentially harmful residues in Chinese food imports led the EU and Britain to ban all new shipments. But at that stage they did not order recalls of products on shelves.
Apart from 11 tonnes of honey, China exports 17,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish and 48 tonnes of rabbit meat to Britain each year.
The FSA has convened a meeting of independent scientific experts to assess the risk.
It said consumers could use Chinese honey already in their cupboards because the risk was considered ‘extremely small’.