Honey is a health risk for young babies because it may contain bacteria called Clostridium botulinum that can cause botulism. Honey is mostly consumed in raw form and is typically not sterilized, pasteurized or radiated (although pasteurized honey may contain bacteria causing botulism also). For this reason, many pediatricians recommend waiting at least twelve months before introducing honey into your baby’s diet. Botulism spores cannot be destroyed during household cooking methods, so it is recommended that honey is not offered to a baby in any form under 12 months of age.
Commercial foods such as cereal or baby food with honey are thought to be safe as they have been heated enough to kill the spores.
To err on the safe side, maple syrup is suggested as a honey alternative.
As adults, our intestines have the ability to fight off toxins that produce botulism. After one year of age, an infant’s intestines has the balance of acids to do the same.
While the dangers are known, many believe that it is not worth worrying about and give honey to their babies when they are six months of age. There are even cultures who feed honey to their babies from birth. Botulism poisoning in infants via contaminated honey is very rare, but it does still occur.
If you have given honey to your child within the past 12-36 hours and notice these signs, then your child could be at risk of botulism or muscle paralysis. Symptoms include lethargy, constipation, weak muscle tone, facial weakness or impaired gag reflex. It is important you take your child to hospital as soon as possible as it can be a life-threatening situation.
If you are concerned about your baby’s diet in any way, please speak to your doctor or pediatrician.