At the request of the Food and Drug Administration, federal marshals seized 64 drums of imported bees honey from a Philadelphia distribution center on June 4 because it contained a potent antibiotic that could lead to serious illness or death.

honey3-featured.jpgThe seizure occurred at the Delaware Avenue Distribution Center, 700 Pattison Avenue, in Philadelphia.

Sweet Works Inc., of Monterey Park, California imported the bulk honey from Cheng Du Wai Yuan Bee Products Company Limited of Chengdu, China. Subsequently, it was sold to Alfred L. Wolff Inc. of Chicago, which placed it in storage.

The FDA estimates the value of the seized goods to be more than $32,000. U.S. Marshals executed this seizure pursuant to a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The honey is adulterated within the meaning of 21 U.S.C. 342(a)(2)(C) of the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, because it contains an unsafe food additive.

FDA testing of a sample of this product at the storage facility showed that it contained chloramphenicol, which is not approved for use in food, animal feed, or food-producing animals in the United States.

Chloramphenicol is a potent antibiotic drug that is approved only for use in humans with serious infections when other less toxic drugs won’t work. People who are sensitive to chloramphenicol can develop a type of bone marrow depression called aplastic anemia, which can be fatal.

“Unapproved food additives in the U.S. food supply are of significant concern to the agency,” said Michael Chappell, the FDA’s acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The FDA took this action because of the potential serious public health effects of this product.”

The FDA is now in the process of inventorying the seized goods.

This case is being investigated by FDA Philadelphia District with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service.