Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

How Safe Is Australian Honey?

How Safe Is Australian Honey?

By AusSMC

A study has reported that Australian honey has liver-damaging toxins at levels that exceed European standards. How concerned should we be?

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"Plants often use toxic chemicals to stop animals eating them. One class of toxic chemicals are the pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver and lung damage. Long-term consumption of pyrrolizidine alkaloids may increase the risk of cancer.

“Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are present in plants ranging from comfrey to Patterson’s curse (Salvation Jane), and small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids may be found in salads, herbal medicines and honey. In many parts of Australia, Patterson’s curse /Salvation Jane is a significant source of nectar for foraging bees. This honey can have high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and must be diluted with honey from other sources to reduce the levels.

“The recent report (www.tinyurl.com/guq888l) shows that Australian honey has on average four times more pyrrolizidine alkaloids than European honeys. European guidelines are more stringent than Australian guidelines, mostly due to a more conservative estimate of cancer risk. While pyrrolizidine alkaloids are able to produce cancer in rats, evidence for cancer in humans is indirect. However, for most Australian honeys the risk is low.

“For a 70 kg person consuming the average amount of honey (around 3 grams per day, roughly three teaspoons), consumption of most of the Australian honeys would...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.