I was disappointed to see the BBC News website giving lots of space to a health product from Nelson Honey and Marketing, despite a lack of evidence of efficacy. It appears – strangely – that the BBC views the fact that Nelson has asked the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for permission to make certain claims for their product as newsworthy in itself.
The BBC reports that Nelson is
seeking EU approval to market honeybee venom to help people with arthritis ease their pain. Nelson Honey & Marketing says two teaspoons a day of its honey with added venom milked from honeybees has anti-inflammatory power to soothe joints.
The venom concept is not new – some clinics even offer up bee stings.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency said it would be considering the application in the coming months.
[The product] contains a blend of honey derived from the native New Zealand Manuka tree and dried venom harvested from the Apis mellifera honeybee using electrical milking machines that send impulses to stimulate worker bees to sting through a latex film onto a glass collector plate.
While the BBC reports “Anecdotal benefit” for the honey product, it makes clear (sadly, only at the end of the article) that there is no good evidence that it works:
the Arthritis Research Campaign said it was sceptical about the beneficial properties of honeybee venom in the treatment of arthritis.
The charity’s medical director Professor Alan Silman said: “We recently compiled a report on the effectiveness of complementary medicines in treating the common types of arthritis based on available scientific evidence and honeybee venom didn’t feature, as no research has been done into this product.
“As a result, it’s difficult to postulate the action of honeybee venom or how it purports to work, because any available evidence is entirely anecdotal.”
Looking beyond this rather unfortunate article, it is impressive that Nelson have managed to turn the mere fact of an application to make certain claims for their product into something newsworthy. Many companies apply to the FSA for permission to make various health claims for their products; many are also refused (a certain level of evidence is expected). If an application itself generates good PR, though, that could in itself be a real incentive to make applications.
I wonder if the BBC will report – with equal prominence – if Nelson’s application is refused due to lack of good evidence?
Please note: if you are considering using bee venom yourself, you should be aware that bee venom can cause serious (even fatal) reactions. It is very important that you do not use any been venom products (or deliberately get bees to sting you) without discussing your plans and the associated risks with your doctor.