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Food Safety

National Surveillance Scheme - Honey Sampling

This page gives details of the honey collection programme that the National Bee Unit carries out on behalf of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) who are the Central Competent Authority responsible for enforcing this legislation. The National Surveillance Scheme (NSS) carries out checks to ensure that products of animal origin in the UK are safe and honey is included within this programme. Tests are carried out for residues of banned substances, contaminants and authorised veterinary medicines in animals and animal products. This is to protect consumers by checking that unacceptable residues are not present in foodstuffs. These tests are required under legislation (The Animals and Animal Products (Examination for Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) (England and Scotland) Regulations 2015 (available at legislation.gov.uk) and corresponding legislation in Wales).

The NBU has been doing this work since 2002. It involves collecting samples of honey from honey producers for residue analysis under the UK statutory residue monitoring programme in England & Wales. Collection of the samples is done during the season at the same time as apiary inspections for bee diseases.

NSS Inspections

All inspections are free and over a hundred samples of honey are taken each year throughout England and Wales by National Bee Unit Inspectors. The samples try to reflect the numbers of beekeepers within a specific region and will be collected from either the brood chamber, super, bottled honey or bulk. During the process you must accompany the inspector.

What will happen?
The sample will be placed in a jar which is then sealed in an evidence bag. You will then be asked to sign and date the security bag along with the inspector and after a copy of the RIM sampling paperwork is produced, a barcode will be attached to the information sheet as a record of the sample being taken. The sample will then be sent to The Food and Environment Research Agency where they will analyse it for any contaminants.

All results are sent to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) where the information is recorded on an in-house database. If the sample is found to have no contaminants, a letter will be sent out to you by the VMD confirming the results. This process is usually completed within about three months of the sample being taken and any enquiries should be directed to the VMD, as NBU are unable to access any results.

What happens if an unacceptable residue is found?
A follow up visit will be made in order to establish how the residues may have arisen and to offer advice on how to avoid it happening again. If illegal substances or a high concentration of authorised medicine is found then legal action may follow.

Further Details

Results of the Food Monitoring Programme are published each year by the VMD Marketing Authorisations Veterinary Information Service (MAVIS). This is designed to provide you with the best available information on the work, plans and results, as well as general developments on the controls on veterinary medicines. MAVIS is published quarterly and published copies can be accessed here (MAVIS on-line website).