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Potential natural sources of semicarbazide in honey
Project Code: FS241065
Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York YO41 1LZ
This review investigated the natural sources of semicarbazide in honey and whether it is produced by natural processes, especially in high purity heather honey.
The relevant literature was critically reviewed with respect to the evidence reported, the quality assurance procedures used, the feasibility of any formation mechanisms suggested, and evidence of confirmatory work.
This literature review identified several publications reporting the presence of arginine in heather honey, although not at levels higher than in other types of honey. However, dew collected in traps has shown some amino acids, notably arginine, can reach very high levels on certain occasions.
Based on these reports, this study hypothesises that arginine levels could have been elevated shortly before and during the production of the affected honey. A hypothetical pathway for the formation of semicarbazide from arginine has been described.
The review concluded that other possible sources of the semicarbazide reported in heather honey could be as-yet unidentified precursors, environmental contaminants or the illicit use of nitrofurazones or other nitrofuran antibiotics which were not detected by the analytical methods used. However, the absence of other metabolites of nitrofurans, and the known provenance of the honey contradict this.
The review provides a number of recommendations for future research.
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