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Apiary at Centre of Suspected Honey Poisoning

Media Release
Date: 24 March 2008

Apiary at Centre of Suspected Honey Poisoning Identified

Comb honey sold with the brand name “A Taste of Whangamata Pure Honey” and trading under Projen Apiaries is at the centre of the Coromandel suspected honey poisoning.

Health officials at Waikato District Health Board today took the unusual step of identifying the apiary following reports of five more cases * three of which resulted in hospitalisation.

It takes the number of suspected cases to nine. All involve comb honey from Projen Apiaries. Three retail outlets in Whangamata sold the honey. The beekeeper withdrew the comb honey from sale on Saturday and has confirmed to the media that it is his honey under investigation.

The latest case involves a 43-year-old Palmerston North draughtsman who ate the honey, bought for him by his mother at Whangamata last month (February), and became so ill his GP admitted him to Palmerston North Hospital. He had a number of seizures, was delirious and constantly vomiting.

Blood, urine and CT tests at the hospital were inconclusive and because he had more than two seizures, the man’s GP told him he was unable to drive for 12 months.

“I put it down to some sort of virus,” the man said.

Last Sunday he again ate the honey and was violently ill. His 45-year-old brother, a fitter and turner in Rotorua, was also unwell after he ate the honey and suspected it was responsible. He threw the honey away and advised his brother to do the same.

“I’d already eaten half of it,” said the Palmerston North man.

The New Zealand Herald this morning also reported three other cases. Vaughan van Rensburg, 36, the principal of Opoutere School near Whangamata went to Waikato Hospital last week suffering violent seizures after eating comb honey.

His Christchurch-based mother-in-law, who was holidaying in Whangamata, was admitted to Thames Hospital with mild seizures while her husband was also unwell.

Health officials say anyone who ate the comb honey Projen Apiaries and experienced any of the symptoms, which include vomiting, seizures, giddiness, increased excitability, should contact their local GP or medical centre.

They are also advising people to be wary of any comb honey from the Coromandel and to ask suppliers and producers for assurances of safety.

New Zealand Food Safety Authority wants people who bought the affected honey to take it to a collection point at the Whangamata Medical Centre. Alternatively, they should wrap the comb honey tightly in plastic and put it in the rubbish.


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