Avoid Infant Botulism: Do Not Feed Honey to Babies

Have you heard of infant botulism? Many people haven’t. But if you have children less than one year of age, it’s important for you to know that honey has been suspected of causing botulism in very young children.

What is Botulism?

Botulism is a form of food poisoning caused by a microorganism called Clostridium Botulinum. When the spores of this microorganism are introduced into the lower bowels of young infants, they can generate a toxin that can block nerve impulse transmission, resulting in a type of paralysis (which give BoTox injections their effectiveness). Occurrences of infant botulism are very rare, but also very serious.

Symptoms of botulism poisoning in an infant include:

  • Continual constipation
  • Overall muscular weakness
  • A weak cry (also due to muscular weakness)
  • A poor appetite, and a weakened sucking ability

An infant displaying any of these botulism symptoms should receive immediate medical attention. In extreme cases, botulism poisoning can be fatal. Some doctors believe that some occurrences of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) may in fact be linked to botulism.

Honey and Botulism

Out of thousands of honey samples that have been tested, Clostridium Botulinum spores have been found in about ten percent. Though the chance of an infant being infected are extremely slim, the Centers for Disease Control and Infection, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Honey Board all recommend that infants less than one year old not be fed honey.

Other Botulism Sources

Botulism spores are not rare; they are present throughout nature. And honey is not the only food in which spores have been found. Fresh meats, processed meats, corn syrup, and unwashed fruits and vegetables are among the foods that have been found to contain the botulism spores. Any raw agricultural product should be very thoroughly washed before being fed to an infant.

Older Children Are Safe

The ingestion of botulism spores from honey or any other food do not present a health risk for older children or adults. The botulism spores are unable to grow in more mature intestines because of the beneficial bacteria present. And if the botulism spores cannot germinate and grow, they are unable to produce the toxin that causes the poisoning.

Consequently, older children and adults have no reason to be concerned about consuming honey. In fact, the age range at which babies are most susceptible is two to four months, and there have been no cases reported of botulism poisoning in children more than 26 weeks old.

Additional information is available at the following sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Infection

CDC on Infact Botulism