A POPULAR alternative medication, allegedly responsible for at least one death and numerous allergic reactions overseas, is readily available in Hong Kong - unchecked by the Department of Health. Royal Jelly, billed as a health tonic and available in many health stores and pharmacies around the territory, is a protein-rich substance produced by worker bees for the queen bee and her larvae. The tonic is believed to be harmless and a boost to the body's metabolism and immune system. But it was blamed for the recent death of an 11-year-old girl in Australia and numerous near-fatal allergic attacks but is not considered hazardous by many health and medical authorities. A spokesman for the Department of Health said the jelly was not classified as a pharmaceutical product. It is in the same category as Chinese medicine for which there is no legislation requiring tests to determineits safety for human consumption. The chief research and testing officer for the Consumer Council, Connie Lau Yin-hing, said the council had not carried out any tests on the product as it had received no complaints. An official statement from the Department of Health said: ''There is no documentation that the ingestion of royal jelly is associated with sudden death. In Hong Kong royal jelly is not known to have caused any deaths. ''People, particularly asthmatics, should be cautious in the consumption of drugs and food and should consult a doctor if uncertain. There is no need to issue a general warning for the public health.'' Eleven-year-old Australian, Deanna Straatmans, suffered a severe allergic reaction after taking a dose of the jelly last year and died. The reaction included a rapid lapse into anaphylatic shock, violent diarrhoea, a drop in blood pressure, narrowing of the airways and heart failure - the girl could not be resuscitated by her nurse mother, or emergency staff at a nearby hospital. The death was reported in the Medical Journal of Australia which also contained reports of other allergic attacks from the jelly and led to a call from the Australian Medical Association for checks on such therapies that are not regarded as harmful and thus completely overlooked. Legislative councillor, Dr Leong Che-hung, said the same could not be done in Hong Kong because legislation classes the jelly as a food. But he was adamant there was a serious need for public education on such products and said consumers should think twice before using them. ''We need to know officially what the victim [Straatmans] actually died from,'' he said. ''Whether it was a reaction to the jelly itself or whatever ingredients were mixed with it - usually ginseng or a similar herb. ''But the problem is these products are considered a food so if the law calls for tests to be carried out then the same tests will have to be done on all food - vegetables, bread, whatever. ''The legislation should not be changed but, what is needed is proper public education.'' Regular users of the jelly have nothing but praise for its invigorating abilities. Medical anthropologist, Linda Koo, said the chances of death from it was probably ''one in a million''. ''Of course it shouldn't be abused - anything can be fatal if used improperly,'' she said. ''Also, different people have allergic reactions and naturally it's possible someone may be fatally allergic to the jelly but I think chances are pretty slim - maybe one in a million.''