Working Residue Levels in Honey

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) operates a National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program for honey (and other food) as part of its food safety enforcement and compliance responsibilities. With regard to honey, both domestic and imported honey are sampled. Samples submitted under this plan are assessed for compliance with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations (FDAR).

Health Canada has recommended safe Working Residue Levels (WRLs) for a number of veterinary drugs approved for use in other species that may be detected in domestic or imported honey. The emerging resistance to oxytetracycline which is used to treat American Foulbrood infection may lead to "extra label" drug use of other antimicrobials. WRLs do not represent approval of additional drugs for use in beekeeping and must not be interpreted as an encouragement of their use.

These WRLs, in addition to Administrative Maximum Residue Limits (AMRLs) and Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs), will now be used by CFIA to assess honey samples. Previously, in the case of veterinary drug residues in honey, the only criteria used for assessment were the MRLs listed in Table III of Division 15 of the FDAR and the AMRLs published on Health Canada's Web site. Except for the AMRL of 0.3 ppm for oxytetracycline, there are no MRLs prescribed for honey. WRLs provide guidance to CFIA to determine the level of compliance and enforcement action that corresponds with the level of risk to human health as it relates to the presence of drug residues in honey.

After consulting with representatives from the Canadian Honey Council and the Canadian Honey Packers and Dealers Association the use of WRLs in imported and domestic honey has been agreed to by both Health Canada and CFIA as outlined in the document entitled " Policy on Administrative/Maximum Residue Limits and Working Residue Levels for Veterinary Drugs in Food Products. June 2005."

Beekeepers are encouraged to work in conjunction with their provincial apiarist and local veterinarian in the identification, appropriate treatment and management of oxytetracycline- resistant American Foulbrood infection. Provincial governments and the honey industry are encouraged to continue to inform producers to practice hygienic management in beekeeping to prevent disease which will decrease the need for medication

Establishing WRLs for honey is a pilot project which provides guidance in an exceptional situation and in the interest of public health. These WRLs will be reviewed periodically to reflect new scientific information and are subject to modification or cancellation.

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