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J Appl Toxicol. 2014 Jul;34(7):733-42. doi: 10.1002/jat.2952. Epub 2013 Nov 11.

Toxic compounds in honey.

Author information

1
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka, 1342, Bangladesh.

Abstract

There is a wealth of information about the nutritional and medicinal properties of honey. However, honey may contain compounds that may lead to toxicity. A compound not naturally present in honey, named 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), may be formed during the heating or preservation processes of honey. HMF has gained much interest, as it is commonly detected in honey samples, especially samples that have been stored for a long time. HMF is a compound that may be mutagenic, carcinogenic and cytotoxic. It has also been reported that honey can be contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. Honey produced from the nectar of Rhododendron ponticum contains alkaloids that can be poisonous to humans, while honey collected from Andromeda flowers contains grayanotoxins, which can cause paralysis of limbs in humans and eventually leads to death. In addition, Melicope ternata and Coriaria arborea from New Zealand produce toxic honey that can be fatal. There are reports that honey is not safe to be consumed when it is collected from Datura plants (from Mexico and Hungary), belladonna flowers and Hyoscamus niger plants (from Hungary), Serjania lethalis (from Brazil), Gelsemium sempervirens (from the American Southwest), Kalmia latifolia, Tripetalia paniculata and Ledum palustre. Although the symptoms of poisoning due to honey consumption may differ depending on the source of toxins, most common symptoms generally include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, headache, palpitations or even death. It has been suggested that honey should not be considered a completely safe food.

KEYWORDS:

HMF; Honey; adulteration; heavy metals; toxic

PMID:
24214851
DOI:
10.1002/jat.2952
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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