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January 24 2023

Antibiotic residues in honey


According to EU legislation that is in force, the use of antibiotics in beekeeping is not allowed. Nonetheless, multiple studies have reported elevated levels of antibiotic residues in honey samples deriving from countries that do not permit antibiotic use. These reports suggest a potential for illegal use, gross misuse of antibiotics.

The EU is the second largest honey producer after China, but the EU is also a net importer of honey from third countries. EU countries with the largest honey production (Romania, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Greece, France and Poland) are mainly located in southern Europe, where climatic conditions are more favourable to beekeeping.

The EU beehives reached 20 M in 2021 and the production of EU honey in 2020 was 218000 tons. The EU remains a net importer of honey. In Jan-Aug 2022 the import volume was 130700 tons following a steep rise of shipments from China (+71%) and Argentina (+53%), while imports declined from Ukraine (-17%) and Mexico (-14%).

Last week the recall in Canada due to the presence of metronidazole raised the well known topic of the use of antibiotics in the production of Honey. In the last 3 years 34 notifications of antibiotics in honey have been reported in our Food safety hud database.

In 2021 FAO did an international survey comparing antimicrobial resistance risk and awareness between beekeepers in Europe, the UK and North America, to understand the situation and they concluded that it’s necessary to ensure beekeepers have access to accurate information, ideally provided by reliable sources and trained experts.

In the last years, The EU has increased the funds to be spent on apiculture programmes and the civil dialogue group and working group on animal products maintains the role of assisting the Commission in maintaining a regular dialogue on all matters related to honey.

Mérieux NutriSciences support

Aligned with our goals of better food, better health and better world we support the honey traders and food industry to assure the absence of antibiotics in honey.


An international survey comparing antimicrobial resistance risk and awareness between beekeepers in Europe, the United Kingdom and North America. FAO, 2021

Council Directive 2001/110/EC of 20 December 2001 relating to honey

Detailed information on honey production in the European Union

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