Health

Parents reminded to avoid honey in babies

  • 3 June 2010
  • From the section Health
Honey
Honey can contain botulism bacteria

Parents are being reminded not to feed honey to babies after three cases of botulism in the past year.

Children under the age of one year are unable to fight off the botulism bacteria which can cause serious illness and lead to paralysis, The Food Standards Agency warned.

Some parents may be tempted to use honey as a sweetener, it said.

There have been only 11 confirmed cases of infant botulism in the past 30 years.

A statement from the FSA said the illness was "rare but serious".

The three cases that have occurred in the past year have all had possible links to honey.

The most recent case involved a 15-week-old baby.

Toxin

Botulism is caused by a germ which normally lives in a dormant form in soil and dust and occasionally gets into honey.

In a baby's undeveloped intestine it can grow and produce a toxin or poison, leading to infant botulism.

For this reason, parents have long been advised not to give honey to babies under one year.

Although infant botulism is incredibly rare, it is a serious illness that causes muscle weakness and breathing problems, often resulting in hospital treatment.

Sam Montel, nutritionist at the Food Standards Agency, added: "For around the first six months babies only need breast milk or infant formula and although it might be tempting to give honey to your baby to ease coughs, infant botulism is a very serious illness and it simply isn't worth the risk.

"Once introduced to solid foods, it's always best to avoid sweetening your baby's food or giving them sugary snacks and drinks, this will help stop them developing a sweet tooth and tooth decay."

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