A New Zealand company is seeking approval to market bee venom as a novel food ingredient in the European Union.
The venom is extracted from the honeybee (Apis mellifera) using a milking apparatus procedure. It is then dried and added to Manuka honey. The company behind the application, Nelson Honey and Marketing, says the venom may help to alleviate symptoms of arthritis.
Honey containing venom has been on the New Zealand market since 1996, but it is considered novel in the EU as it does not have a significant history of consumption there before 15 May 1997.
In its dossier, Nelson Honey and Marketing says: "Components of honeybee venom have an anti-inflammatory effect and market feedback has shown that customers derive benefits from taking Manuka honey with added bee venom to alleviate symptoms of arthritis.
"An intake of two teaspoons of Manuka honey with added bee venom per day is equivalent to 20g honey and 400 micrograms honeybee venom per day. This dosage is close to the dose that would be expected to be effective for a 75kg adult from reported clinical studies."
The company says it has sold about 13.5 million individual 20g doses of Manuka honey with added bee venom since the product was launched. "Over this 13-year period reported incidences of adverse reactions to Manuka honey with added bee venom have been extremely low," it says, adding that toxicological data from a range of human and animal studies show that at the suggested level of consumption Manuka honey with added bee venom is safe.
The application has been made through the UK's Food Standards Agency. The assessment will be carried out by an independent committee of scientists, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes.