Honey and Botulism Toxicity

Honey is the Amber coloured liquids made by the bees with the nectar of the flowers. Being potentially high in polyphenols, it helps in strengthening immune system with high levels of antimicrobial, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Though exceeds in the calorie content compared to sugar, honey being complex and with higher nutritional load makes an important place for itself.

Apart from being scrumptious and complex, honey surely is considered a healthier option than sugar. Honey helps in treating mild form of gastritis in small babies which can be used as a better substitute to glucose in Oral Rehydration Therapy

Can an infant (newborn) under 1 year of age be fed honey?

There are a lot of communities existing in  India, encourage the use of honey as a part of the child’s weaning chart(foods introduced to the infant  after 6 months of exclusively nursing) , reason being clear,  it helps in developing immune response and is delicious enough to make child’s meal worthy to taste better.

There is not very known fact, that honey usage should not be encouraged in a toddler’s diet before his 1st birthday.

Introduction and consumption of Honey before 12 months of age can lead to a condition called ’Infant Botulism’, which occurs when the baby’s progressing GI system, is unable to nullify harmful effect of  the dreadful  bacteria ’Clostridium Botulinum’. The infection caused by the spores of this deadly bacteria can be associated with muscle weakness and breathing problems, since infant digestive system is unable to metabolise the detrimental effect of this strain of bacteria, it gets an ideal medium for the strain to multiply once ingested, causing toxin to interfere with normal muscle and nerve coordination making moving, breathing, eating difficult for an infant.

Raw/Organic honey specially have more impactful strain of botulinum, as it is directly picked up from the nectar and bottled making it more contaminated with the soil and other bacteria. Pasteurised honey, on other hand is further processed and the level of harmful bacterial load is unsubstantial.

Bottom Line

Honey though loaded with important vital nutrients, it should only be introduced in the toddler’s diet after 1st year of life. A toddler’s digestive system can be capable enough to nullify dreadful effects of botulinum, unlike an infant’s system.

Small quantities of organic honey can be introduced meticulously in the toddler’s diet (12-36 months of age). It can be made an ideal replacement to the refined white sugar (which gives empty calories without contributing nutritional benefits).

Special care has to be taken to start introducing minimum quantities in the child’s porridges, milk, toasts, pies, custards, toppings for fresh fruits, which makes it nutritionally content and delighting.

Opt for honey which is free from sugar and other kind of artificial syrups. Though 1 tsp of honey provides 20 Kcal with around 4.3 gms of sugar and no fat against granulated sugar which provides roughly 15 kcal and 4 grams of sugar, honey is more desirable due to its nutritional vitality and the quantity it is used in(honey is needed is lesser amounts as it is more sweeter than granulated sugar).

Apart from its dietary benefits, it can be used in long run to alleviate symptoms of sore throat and wound healing.

1 Comment
  1. Smriti Jha says

    Informative and nice write up.

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