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Don't "honey" your baby

In “This week in the HSI e-Alert” on Friday, 8/8/03, I told you about an HSI Forum thread that discussed the benefits of raw honey over the standard commercial honeys, which tend to be homogenized and pasteurized.

That discussion prompted an e-mail from a member named Anne who passed along this warning:

“Please mention that while honey is a perfectly safe substance for adults and children over the age of 2, it should NOT be given to babies and small children (under 2). Honey contains a bacterium that is harmless to humans once our immune systems are fully developed, but this bacterium can be deadly to the under-2 crowd while their immune systems are still developing. Honey in any form, should NEVER be given to anyone under the age of 2.”

Anne is correct, although the sources I’ve found indicate that it’s probably okay for infants to have honey anytime after their first birthday.

In e-Alerts and HSI Members Alerts we’ve written about the beneficial bacteria (called probiotic organisms) that inhabit the digestive tract and help keep harmful bacteria in check. This healthy “gut flora” also produces valuable nutrients (including certain B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids), digestive enzymes like lactase, and immune chemicals that even fight cancer cells.

Both raw and processed honey contains spores of botulinum bacteria that can develop into botulism in the digestive tracts of newborns because probiotic organisms are not completely developed during the first year of life. If only a very small amount of these spores reaches an infant’s digestive tract, paralysis of the diaphragm can result, sometimes causing asphyxiation.

So by all means, parents should wait until the second or third year before they sweeten their infant’s life with honey.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

“Honey Can Give Your Infant Botulism” Careful Parents,
“Food Safety: Tips for Feeding Infants and Young Children” National Network for Child Care,