(fixes typo in 10th paragraph)
* California airport shut down for hours in false alarm
* Bottles in man's luggage found to contain honey
* Unclear why bottles tested positive for explosives
(Updates with 'explosive' substance found to be honey)
By Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES, Jan 5 Authorities shut down a
California airport on Tuesday after a suspicious amber liquid
in a passenger's bag tested positive for explosives -- only to
ultimately determine that the substance was honey.
Francisco Ramirez, a 31-year-old gardener who had been
visiting family in the central California city of Bakersfield,
was allowed to return home to Milwaukee.
"The substances in the bottles did turn out to be honey.
They tested negative for all explosives and narcotics. It is
nothing but honey," FBI spokesman Steve Dupre told Reuters.
The security scare came as jitters gripped the U.S. travel
industry in the aftermath of an unsuccessful Christmas Day
attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound commercial flight from
Amsterdam using explosives smuggled on board.
Meadows Field Airport in Bakersfield, about 100 miles (160
km) north of Los Angeles, was shut down and evacuated for hours
and flights diverted after the incident, which began when
Ramirez' bag set of an alarm in a luggage-screening machine.
U.S. Transportation and Security administration screeners
turned up five Gatorade bottles full of what they called a
"suspicious-looking liquid." Swabs of the bag and bottles
tested positive for the explosives TNT and TATP.
When the bottles were opened, two of the screeners smelled
a strong chemical odor, complained of nausea and were rushed to
a local hospital, where they treated and released, Kern County
Sheriff's spokesman Michael Whorf said.
Kern County Sheriffs deputies, fire crews, FBI agents and
members of a "joint terrorism task force" responded to the
scene and spent the day questioning Ramirez before further
tests showed that the liquid was honey.
After the all clear was given, officials said they were
trying to determine why the honey tested positive for
explosives and made the screeners so ill that they would need
"There are some questions I think are going to have to be
followed up on," Dupre said. He said that Ramirez was "free to
go" and would likely be home in Milwaukee by Wednesday.
Ramirez, who Whorf described as "very cooperative," had
originally been booked on a flight from Bakersfield to
Milwaukee with a connection through San Francisco.
In an unrelated incident halfway across the country on
Tuesday, a bomb-sniffing dog detected what was thought to be
explosives in a piece of luggage at the Minneapolis-St. Paul
International Airport, prompting an evacuation of a terminal
and delayed flights there.
No explosives were found in the bag.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)