Don't Give Honey to Babies

Nutritious or Deadly?

Parents have a natural concern about feeding their babies in the best and most nutritious manner and it often comes as a surprise to new parents to learn that honey is a forbidden substance for infants, since honey has long been considered the most nutritious sweetener. Despite honey's wholesome reputation, the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised that honey should not be added to food, water, or formula fed to infants under the age of one year. The rule applies to baked and processed goods as well. Pacifiers should never be dipped in honey, a common practice for calming fractious infants.

The reason for the prohibition on honey is due to the fact that honey may contain botulism spores, which can lead to botulism poisoning. In some parts of the United States, the risk for the contamination of honey with botulism spores is higher due to higher concentrations of such spores in the soil. The spores in soil affect the flora on which honey-producing bees feed. Sometimes the spores are inhaled by bees or settle on hives leading to a direct contamination of the honey by the spores.

Honey is most often consumed in its raw state and it is rare for honey to be pasteurized, sterilized, or radiated. Still, even pasteurized honey can contain botulism spores and should not be given to children under the age of one year.

Adults are not at risk of contracting botulism from honey since adult intestines produce enough acids to kill off the toxins from the small amount of botulism bacteria found in honey. At the age of one year, the intestines of infants also have a good balance of botulism-fighting acids that can destroy and kill any toxins the minuscule amount of botulism bacteria found in honey may produce.

Even honey-containing baked goods like breads or cakes pose a danger to infants, since the botulism spores are not destroyed during the baking process. The baking time is too short and the baking temperatures not high enough to kill the botulism spores. The only effective method of killing botulism spores is by means of a pressure canner.

Rare Risk

Molasses and corn syrup may also contain botulism spores and these items are also not often processed or pasteurized. Though the risk of botulism poisoning in infants via honey, corn syrup, or molasses is quite rare, it is wise to avoid their use for the first year.