Recently in a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), it was found that leading Indian and foreign brands of honey have high levels of antibiotics, which could pose major health problems.
The study by CSE's Pollution Monitoring Laboratory found that Indian brands like Dabur, Baidyanath, Patanjali Ayurveda, Khadi and Himalaya had two to four antibiotics in their products which are said to be much above the stipulated standard.
It is also revealed that two foreign brands of honey from Australia and Switzerland also contain high levels of antibiotics, illegal in their own countries.
"Surprisingly, India regulates antibiotics in the honey it exports, but not in the honey sold domestically," a CSE official said.
The sealed samples were all collected in Delhi.
"The tested brands contained high levels of antibiotics, even carcinogens, that can lead to chronic health ailments and bone marrow problems also," CSE director Sunita Narain said.
The regular consumption of these antibiotics could cause organ damage, especially in children below the age of five. Regular ingestion of antibiotics through honey could lead to consumers becoming resistant to medicines as well, added Narain.
The Exports Inspection Council (EIC) of India has prescribed limits for some antibiotics in honey exported from India, but there are no standards for the domestic market.
The study found three types of antibiotics in Dabur, one of India's largest Ayurvedic companies. This included Oxytetracycline, which was over nine times the EIC limit. Dabur owns over 65 percent of the honey market in India.
Samples from Himalaya Herbal Healthcare also found high levels of three antibiotics.
The antibiotics found in the branded honey bottles include Erythromicin, Ciprofloxacin and various other antibiotics mainly used as growth promoters in cattle.
From a cottage industry, honey manufacturing has now become a large industry with emphasis on producing large quantities.
"Bees are forcibly fed with antibiotics and other harmful growth promoters injected in cattle. This has an ultimate impact on the output from local breeders," Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of CSE said.
"Honey business has undergone a major change, which has a direct impact on the health of the consumers," said Narain.
The CSE head urged the government to prescribe the standards for the domestic honey market.
"The government cannot be biased towards the export companies, while there is no restriction for our domestic market and imported products," Narain said.
CSE is the same agency which earlier tested colas for pesticides and toys for poisonous chemicals.