In Canada, honey is the only food which has been linked to infant botulism – a rare but serious illness that is caused by ingesting the bacterium C. botulinum. In the majority of cases of infant botulism, the source of C. botulinum is never determined, but because honey has been linked to cases of infant botulism, parents are advised not to feed honey to infants less than one year of age.
Causes and symptoms of infant botulism
While the botulism bacteria can't grow or produce toxins in honey itself, they can grow and produce toxins in a baby's intestine.
Symptoms of infant botulism include constipation, weakness, a weak cry, a poor sucking reflex, irritability, lack of facial expression, and loss of head control. In some cases, the child may have trouble breathing because of paralysis of the diaphragm.
If you suspect that your infant is showing symptoms of infant botulism, it's important that you not ignore them and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Most infants with infant botulism recover completely with no lasting adverse health effects.
What you should know to prevent infant botulism
- Never feed honey to an infant that is less than one year old.
- Never add honey to baby food or put honey on a soother.