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Contamination of honey by the herbicide asulam and its antibacterial active metabolite sulfanilamide

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A number of antibacterial drugs (antibiotics) like sulfonamides, tetracyclines and streptomycin are used for the treatment of bacterial diseases in beehives. Yet, the finding of sulfanilamide residues in some 15 Swiss honeys out of some 350 samples could not be explained by such apicultural practice. Bees occasionally collect nectar from meadows treated with the herbicide asulam. Such honey is not only contaminated by asulam, but also by its degradation product sulfanilamide. This is the first report that the use of a herbicide causes the appearance of residues of an antibacterial active metabolite belonging to the category of sulfonamide drugs in food. The relevance of this finding lies in the fact that the use of the herbicide asulam might cause unacceptable residue levels of sulfanilamide in a product for human consumption.
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Keywords: asulam; honey; liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC/MS); metabolite; sulfanilamide; sulfonamides

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zurich (Kantonales Laboratorium Zürich) PO Box CH-8030 Zürich Switzerland 2: Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Aargau (Kantonales Laboratorium Aargau) Kunsthausweg 24 CH-5000 Aargau Switzerland

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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