Monday, November 07, 2011

What next? EU orders a pollen warning on honey jars

It is, you might think, one of nature’s purest delicacies. But not for the labelling police of the EU.

Under new regulations, jars of honey will have to be marked ‘contains pollen’ – a move experts have branded ludicrous, and say could put some British beekeepers out of business.

It will also have to undergo expensive tests to prove it does not contain unauthorised genetically modified pollen.

Until now, honey had always been considered an entirely unadulterated product for the purposes of food labelling.

But the European Court of Justice has decreed that pollen is an ingredient of honey rather than an intrinsic component.

It means that products will, for the first time, have to carry a list of ingredients such as ‘honey (contains pollen)’.

Britain’s biggest supplier of retail honey, Rowse, said that the bill for re-labelling and testing its entire range will run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

John Howat, secretary of the Bee Farmers’ Association, which represents Britain’s 300 commercial beekeepers, said: ‘This ruling is a real nuisance.

‘The idea that pollen is an ingredient of honey is nonsense. Pollen is integral to honey. Bees collect nectar and pollen. When they are storing it away pollen gets into the nectar and hence into the honey.’

The ruling came after a German amateur beekeeper found small amounts of GM pollen in his honey. He sued the state of Bavaria, which owned trial GM maize plots near his hives, for damaging his produce.

His case ended in the ECJ reclassifying pollen as a food ingredient, in a ruling that cannot be appealed.

Anyone who sells honey to the public, including Britain’s 40,000 amateur beekeepers, faces tests.

Suppliers whose pollen is found to be more than 0.9 per cent GM must undergo full safety authorisation and label their honey accordingly.

But experts say it is unlikely that any honey produced in Britain will contain that level of GM pollen – and claim scientists cannot quantify the content of pollen to that degree of accuracy.

Patrick Robinson, of Oxfordshire-based firm Rowse, said: ‘There is a tiny amount of GM pollen all round the world now. But beekeepers do not tend to put their hives next to cultivated crops.’

He added: ‘To say honey contains pollen is like saying peanuts contain nuts…This could be really damaging to smaller producers and beekeepers.

‘If they have to add on a £200 test for every batch of honey that they pack, it could be more than their profit and run them out of business.’

The European Commission is expected to finalise the regulations over the next year.


End of the annual flu jab? Single vaccine 'could protect against all strains of the virus for life'

We will have to wait and see how well it works

The prospect of a single flu vaccine that would protect against all strains of the virus for life has been revealed. Scientists working on the universal flu jab, known as Flu-v, are in the early stages of development but hope to offer a product to the NHS within three to five years.

The company behind the drug, SEEK, will present the results of a small-scale clinical trial at the Influenza Congress in Washington DC on Tuesday. Results so far have shown that it can significantly reduce infection rates and also cut the severity of symptoms.

Because flu is so changeable, pregnant women, the elderly and other 'at risk' groups are given a new injection every year. The flu virus regularly mutates its 'outer coat', which is what a vaccine usually targets.

But the team behind Flu-v has managed to isolate a thread common to all strains of flu and by targeting that element, rather than the changing 'outer coat', the vaccine can cater for all requirements. That means it would protect against strains of bird flu and swine flu, as well as seasonal variants.

'The trial suggest was only need one shot of vaccine,' Gregory Stoloff, the chief executive of SEEK told The Telegraph. 'Our aim is for the flu vaccine to become more like the mumps and measles - where you only need it once and you get protection for a long time.'

Last year 600 people died as a result of winter flu epidemics, with asthmatics and people with liver disease also highly-prone to serious infection.

A single jab would also help reduce contagion, with government figures revealing this week that just one in three people in at-risk groups have taken up their annual vaccination.

New data from the Department of Health reveals more than half (55 per cent) of people over 65 have had the jab, which protects against several strains of flu including swine flu.

But only 32 per cent of those under 65 in at-risk groups - such as with diabetes, liver disease, asthma or chest problems and neurological conditions - have come forward.

And just 14 per cent of pregnant women have had the vaccine this year.

Data suggests diabetics are six times more likely to die if they get flu than a healthy person, while those with chronic heart disease are 11 times more likely to die.

People with chronic liver disease are 48 times more likely to die and those with undergoing medical treatment who may have a compromised immune system are 47 times more likely.


1 comment:

John A said...

"To say honey contains pollen is like saying peanuts contain nuts…"

Nitpicking -
Oops, wrong analogy. Try almomds, or almond butter, since peanuts are not actually nuts.

More generally, though, over-reaction? And who is going to pay for those tests? Honey consumers via increased production cost, or all citizens xia government testing laboratories?