Beehive Buzz: Honey & Infant Botulism


Warning about infant botulism.

Recently, Ms. Stacy Blomquist, a Cenla Beekeeper and Board member of the Louisiana Beekeepers Association brought a program to the SW LA Beekeepers Associations about honey and infant botulism.

Many beekeepers know that honey is harmful to infants less than 12 months old, but they are unusually unaware of the reason. Honey has many positive health benefits so can it be harmful to infants?

Here are some of the main points from Blomquist’s program:

  • Infant botulism is a rare disease that affects infants primarily under 1 year of age.
  • Ingested spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulism colonize and grow in the infant’s large intestine and produce botulinum neurotoxin.
  • Symptoms include constipation, weakness (notably of gag, cry, suck, and swallow), loss of muscle tone, and flaccid (“limp”) paralysis. Affected infants have difficulty feeding and often, breathing.
  • Foodborne botulism in adults occurs when botulism spores are in the food we eat. Common sources of foodborne botulism are homemade foods that have been improperly canned, preserved, or fermented.
  • A baby contracts infant botulism by swallowing the botulism spores at a moment in time when the baby’s large intestine is vulnerable to spore germination and toxin production.
  • Honey is the one identified and avoidable source of botulinum spores. Honey is a known food vehicle for the bacteria. Not every jar of honey has botulinum spores in it.
  • Avoiding feeding honey to infants 12 months of age or less is the only known prevention measure for infant botulism at this time.
  • Once a baby reaches one year old, then his or her digestive system is mature enough to kill botulism pathogens.
  • BabyBIG™, Botulism Immune Globulin Intravenous (Human) (BIG-IV) is a drug that consists of human-derived anti-botulism toxin antibodies that is approved by the U.S. FDA for the treatment of infant botulism types A and B.
  • Is it okay for a breastfeeding mother to eat honey? Is it safe? Yes, it is okay for a breastfeeding mother to eat honey. Botulism is not transmitted by breast milk.
  • Take Home Message for Parents: Avoid giving honey to infants less than one year old.
  • Take Home Message for Beekeepers: Please label your honey with a warning to avoid giving honey to infants less than one year old.

If you want to contact “Beehive Buzz,” please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 318.264.2448 or . Also, you can be on the “beemail” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

“Mention of trade names or commercial products and services in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

7/14/2022 7:11:01 PM
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