I always loved honey and I have great memories attached to it. As a little girl spending summers at my grandparents second home in the countryside, we would sometime go get raw honey from a local producer.The whole experience was magical. First of all, the name of the honey farm was something like “The Fairy Rock” and it was located in a sunny meadow in the middle of a forest. We would buy honey by the gallon and it came in a big gold bucket! At least, this is how I remember it to be! This little trip was always such a treat and the next breakfast toasts were succulent.
Honey is not only delicious, it is also very interesting on many levels: historically, culinary, nutritionally and medically. But this is a vast subject and people have written about it extensively. I thought I would develop one characteristic from time to time and give practical information. Let’s start with the recommendation of not feeding honey to infants younger than 12 months.
The reason for this recommendation is the potential risk of infant botulism. Honey can contain botulinum spores that come from a bacteria (Clostridium botulinum). Those spores are present in the soil and are transported by bees. They are harmless to most adults (in rare cases, adults with a damaged gastrointestinal tract or flora might develop the disease). The guts of infants are not mature yet and their intestinal flora cannot digest the spores quickly enough to prevent their germination. The botulinum neurotoxin which is then produced, causes multiple symptoms that can even lead to paralysis and death. It seems that there isn’t much difference in terms of risk, between raw and pasteurized honey because the temperature used for pasteurization is not high enough to destroy the spores. Just to put this in perspective, there are very few cases of infant botulism in the US, and even fewer caused by honey. Generally babies recover fully with the appropriate treatment. But still, there is no need to take unnecessary risks: although honey is a very interesting food, and a good substitute for refined sugar, wait until your children are one year old before introducing them to honey or any processed foods containing honey. Plus, some infants are allergic to the pollen that can be present in honey. They will have the rest of their lives to enjoy it!