April 13, 2021

The rhododendron honey that alarms Brussels | Society

The rhododendron honey that alarms Brussels | Society


The Spanish company that sells it, from Nepal, packs it in a syringe in doses of one milliliter. And in the packaging warns that "you should not eat more than one a day." Neither if you are pregnant or you have heart problems. The INT ensures that exposure in humans is not usually serious. But nevertheless, the Commission will soon discuss with the countries its sale and consult the European Food Safety Agency for health risks in the face of a "foreseeable prohibition or regulation".

Meanwhile, the European Directorate General for Health and Food Safety reports that no poisonings have occurred. However, the INT has verified cases in the rest of the world, especially in the southeast basin of the Black Sea. There, "these poisonings are conditioned by the belief that gives honey properties of use in alternative medicine."

In 2002, 19 people suffered intoxication in Düzce (Turkey). All had ingested between 30 and 100 grams hours before their hospital admission. In 1983, another 17-year-old Turkish girl went into a coma after eating 75 milliliters. And, 24 years earlier, another person in Nepal suffered a syncope after eating between 10 and 15 grams. The effects, as recognized by the professor of Pharmacology at the University of Alcalá de Henares Francisco Zaragozá, "are similar to those produced the mushroom Amanita muscaria, that affects the central nervous system: confusion, agitation, delirium, amnesia, and that can cause a cholinergic syndrome ".

The INT points out that the product that is most likely to be contaminated with grayanotoxins, "although very rarely at toxic levels," is that which comes from Japan, Brazil, the United States and Nepal. In Spain, the Ministry of Health has given its approval to the Murcian company that sells it, and that is included in the register of food companies of the Spanish Agency for Food Safety. It has already brought 25 kilos and has "another 600 reserved," according to the founder, Angel Rodriguez, who clarifies that the dose offered "is curative and nutritional." The Agency, however, clarifies that it has not had knowledge of the existence of this product in the market and that "timely risk management measures have not been initiated".

Nepali honey marketed by the Spanish company.
Nepali honey marketed by the Spanish company.

This 41-year-old Murcian traveled in February 2018 to Nepal In search of "psychoactive honey" collected by the Gurung, a local tribe that has used it for centuries "for its medicinal properties", says the delegate of the Nepali embassy in Spain, Harihar Kant Pudel. He has it at home, he says that "foreigners started buying it 10 years ago." He also says that 90% of Nepalese production is exported to Europe.

This village collects honeycombs almost 5,000 meters high "near the Himalayas," says Kant. According to Rodríguez, "it is sacred, it heals the soul and connects you with the stars". The slopes of the Hongu valley are full of huge rhododendrons that bloom in spring. "Nepali peasants have been found drowsy and dizzy because of their consumption", according to a study published in 2010 by José Manuel Crespo, José Alfonso Cardenal and Pedro David Quesada, veterinarians of the Extremadura Health Service.

The Extremadura research group reported toxicity "to prevent it from being sold and distributed". In addition, it maintains that when it is made it is "marketed at high prices as a high gastronomy product, and that with the relevant controls it does not entail risks for the human being". In Europe, he clarifies, it is obtained in commercial quantities in the Alps; "France and Italy are the main producing countries".

According to a document from the European Commission proposing the banning of certain substances, it is reported that France has prevented the sale of rhododendron honey when they are blooming. In addition, Italy is warned that in 2017 experiments were being carried out on animals with this food "by unqualified personnel and without the prior authorization of the Italian authorities". In 2008, the South Korean Food and Drug Administration warned people not to eat Nepalese honey.

The EU: "False honey keeps coming"

The sale of this Nepali honey comes after the call that the community institutions made in 2018 to protect the interests of the 600,000 European beekeepers, who "due to high production costs can hardly compete with imported honey". The Old Continent is the world's second largest producer of this sweetener. Each year 250,000 tons are produced, of which the majority (around 20,000) correspond to Spain. However, production does not cover European consumption, so the Union imports tens of thousands of tonnes. Only in 2016 were 200,000. Y 40% came from China, the country that produces the most.

In addition, the European Parliament warned on 1 March 2018 in its resolution on the perspectives and challenges for the beekeeping sector that the Joint Research Center analyzed samples from the Member States and determined that 20% of those taken at the borders of the Union did not meet the composition criteria set by Brussels and 14% contained added sugar. Therefore, Europe warns that "false and adulterated honey continues to arrive".

Compounds not suitable for the Union

The genus ephedra and its preparations. On November 6, 2013 the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) banned the use of this compound, which is obtained from a plant, and used in food supplements to lose weight. He did this even though he did not find it available for purchase in stores within the European Union. However, the community body understood that "it could be acquired easily through the Internet". In the analysis it was concluded that "exposure to alkaloids [presentes en la planta] In these supplements, it can produce adverse effects in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, such as hypertension. In addition, it increases the risk of stroke, which would be aggravated in combination with caffeine, also present in these products. " Preparations containing alkaloids, warns EFSA, are a significant concern for human health and the use of this substance in food should be prohibited.

Yohimbre bark. In 2013, the EFSA concluded "that it was not in a position to establish a safe daily intake, due to an inadequate chemical and toxicological characterization of Yohimbe bark and its preparations destined to be used in food due to adverse effects on health" .

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