Bee venom honey maker stung by FSA ruling

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Honey

Bee venom honey maker stung by FSA ruling
A producer of honey with added bee venom has described the Food Standards Agency (FSA’s) rejection of UK - and by extension EU - licensing for his product under the novel foods regulation as “hard to rationalise”.

The unusual honey is made in New Zealand by Nelson Honey & Marketing, and the bee venom is ‘milked’ from insects and added to Manuka honey in minute doses of 20 μg/g (parts per million): the firm markets the product in that country within its NectarEase range of honeys, balms and food supplements as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial ingredient "especially beneficial for sufferers of arthritic pain".

But a FSA spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk that its Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes' (ACNFP) initial opinion on the product in July 2010 under Article 3(1) of Regulation 258/97 – subsequently endorsed by other EU member states before a final rejection in December 2010 – was based on “serious concerns”​ about the product’s allergenicity.

Allergic reaction risk

The spokesman said this included the risk of immediate and serious allergic reactions to the known toxin, including anaphylaxis, in individuals who are unknowingly allergic to bee venom, when consuming the novel ingredient: the panel estimated that venom levels were likely to be "at least 12 times higher"​ than when it naturally occured in some standard honies.

Another risk the ACNFP raised was the potential for low doses of bee venom to sensitise some “genetically susceptible”​ individuals so that they suffer serious allergic responses on later exposure to bee venom, for example via bee stings.

But Clinton Lammas, who runs the New Zealand firm’s UK subsidiary Nectar Ease, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that concerns about allergenicity were overblown.

FSA has big stick

Lammas said that only one New Zealand consumer was mentioned in the ACNFP’s initial opinon to have suffered a reaction since the honey hit shelves there in 1996, and that she was the “worst case”​ consumer, being particularly susceptible to allergies and having a known allergy to bee products in particular.

“We haven’t sold the product in the EU for 18 months or so, but unfortunately the FSA has a bloody big stick" ​he said, adding that his firm had since made a decision not to pursue novel foods approval further.

“The research cost a fortune the first time round, and it’s all the more disappointing because the ​[FSA] decision is hard to rationalise.”

Lammas added that Nectar Ease had returned to its core business having spent a six-figure sum compiling research for the Novel Foods application: “It’s all very depressing, and to be honest if I think about it too much then I’ll feel like poking my head in an oven.”

However, he said the research investment had not been wholly wasted, given that Nelson Honey & Marketing now has expertise in adding bee venom to honey in precise minute doses - on a part per million scale - and is "one of the few firms"​ worldwide with such expertise.

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1 comment

Bee venom honey

Posted by Dr.Tatiana Nikolaeva,

I am one of the developers of bee venom honey in New Zealand. My husband developed bee venom collection technology which is completely safe for the bees. We have a scientific background in biology science and I would like to say a few words. We understand worries from the FSA about possible serious allergic reaction. When we developed this product in 1997, we first of all investigated allergenic activity bee venom dissolved in honey and only after that developed safe and effective dose (20ppm).

We investigated chemical properties of NZ bee venom and found that bee venom from bee sting has different allergenic activity in compare to bee venom dissolved in honey, because honey inactivates the main allergenic enzymes such as Phospholipase A2 and it is proved by immune-chemical analyses.

In reality it is unique result allowing one to get health benefits from main healing bee venom peptides completely safely, without adverse reaction even for people with high sensitivity to bee venom. For me and for my son one bee sting can be dangerous for life, but we take bee venom honey iy is completely safe. Therefore, honey is the best natural carrier for bee venom and it is very sad that FSA rejected the application. We ready supply all our scientific results for support of this really good natural product, which has so many healing properties.

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