Why Can’t Babies Eat Honey?

Why Can’t Babies Eat Honey?

Have you ever wondered why children under the age of one year can’t have honey?

It used to be such a mystery to me why honey, which is so healthy and natural, should have a warning label against feeding it to babies. Now I understand that it isn’t the honey itself, but something that may be contained in the honey. 

Clostridium botulinum bacteria is a very common organism found abundantly in soil and dust everywhere. To survive, it produces dormant spores, which  allow it to survive in all kinds of environments until the conditions are right for it to grow. One of the byproducts of this growth is the production of Botulism Toxin, one of the deadliest toxins known to man.

As bees collect nectar and pollen they may also be collecting Clostridium botulinum spores that are on that pollen.

Honey itself is too acidic for the bacteria to grow in, so it lays dormant.  It is important to point out that while babies can develop Botulism from eating honey, Infant botulism is not the same as Foodborne Botulism, which develops in the food itself, before it is eaten. When an adult eats honey his digestive system is also too acidic for it to grow. A baby’s digestive system, however is less acidic and can create the perfect environment for those Clostridium botulinum spores to grow and release Botulism Toxin into their system.

While it is possible, it is extremely rare for a baby to develop botulism. According to the CDC: “An average of 110 cases of botulism [Wound, Foodborne, and Infant] is reported annually in the US. Approximately seventy percent of these cases are infant botulism.”

Symptoms of Infant Botulism may include:

  • Breathing that stops or slows
  • Constipation
  • Eyelids that sag or partially close
  • “Floppy” body
  • Absence of gagging
  • Loss of head control
  • Paralysis that spreads downward
  • Poor feeding and weak suckling
  • Respiratory failure
  • Extreme tiredness (lethargy)
  • Weak cry

Source for Infant Botulism Symptoms HERE

Other Online Sources
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17828-botulism https://www.emergency.cdc.gov/agent/botulism/clinicians/epidemiology.asp

If your baby exhibits these symptoms over several days and you believe she has eaten honey, please visit the emergency room. When caught in time, Botulism is successfully treated with Botulism immune globulin.

Beekeepers can’t detect or prevent their honey from containing Clostridium botulinum.

It is common knowledge that babies under one year should not eat honey, but it’s still a good idea to simply place a warning label on your honey as a reminder. Remember, It is very unlikely that a child will develop botulism from eating honey, but when knowledge is power, fear is powerless.