Prevent Lead Contamination
Lead residues have been found in some honey products through recent
laboratory tests. Exposure to lead is known to have adverse effects
on human health, especially on the nervous system. Children are
The primary source of lead contamination in honey is lead-bearing
equipment. Honey is an acidic product and can react with surfaces
containing lead, allowing lead to be absorbed by the honey. Lead-bearing
equipment includes, but is not restricted to:
- galvanized equipment (such as extractors and tanks)
- soldered equipment (such as stainless steel extractors, tanks,
packing units or any other equipment with lead containing soldered
- some bronze and brass fittings, equipment made of terneplate
(a metal alloy found in some older equipment)
What You Can do to Avoid Lead Contamination
Inspect and Maintain Your Equipment:
- New and used equipment must be made with food-grade materials.
These include stainless steel, food- grade plastic, and fibreglass
lined steel with welded or lead-free soldered seams. Repairs to
any equipment must also be made with food-grade materials. Solder
containing lead should not be used.
- Do not used older equipment to store, or dispense honey unless
you have verified that it is lead free. Increased exposure or
residency time will increase the risk of lead contamination of
- Do not leave honey in the bottom of the extractor between uses.
If the extractor has a lead soldered seam, honey left in the bottom
is exposed to lead and could contaminate your next lot.
- Lead test kits are available and should be used to identify
possible lead sources in your equipment. Kits may be purchased
from many equipment suppliers.
Procedure to Check For Lead
Testing new and used equipment for lead is convenient and can be
done quickly. Test kits contain a chemical that changes colour when
it comes in contact with lead.
Follow these steps:
- Prepare the surface following the procedures included with your
test kit. The surface chosen to test should be an internal soldered
seam with direct honey contact. Preparation usually involves removal
of any honey or coatings/oxidation from the surface. This can
be done by wiping the surface off with a paper towel or cloth,
and roughing up the surface with a piece of sandpaper, knife or
emery board (Fig. 1).
- Activate the lead testing swab or wipe by following the instructions
within the test kit package. Apply the reagent to the prepared
surface. If the solution changes colour, as outlined in the test
kit, then lead is present.
Figure 1. Prepare the surface
If using food grade coatings, correct surface preparation and application
is very important. If coatings (such as paint) are not applied correctly,
they can flake off and could contaminate the honey. A database of
accepted construction, packaging and coating materials can be found
on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website at: www.inspection.gc.ca/active/scripts/fssa/reference/reference.asp