Four cases of infant botulism prompted the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a safety reminder to parents and caregivers to avoid feeding honey to infants one year of age and under. Feeding babies honey, including in the form of honey pacifiers, could cause infant botulism, a potentially fatal illness.
Botulism is a rare but serious illness often associated with improper food preparation and storage, such as home canning done incorrectly. In infants, botulism occurs when the baby ingests bacterial spores, which then develop into a toxin in the intestines that is released in the body.
Four infant botulism cases in Texas prompted the FDA’s safety advisory issued on November 16. In each case, an infant had been given a pacifier filled with or dipped in honey. Those infants were then diagnosed with botulism and admitted to Texas hospitals for life-saving treatment. As honey is a known source of Clostridium botulinum spores, the FDA, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, advise that as ever, young children be kept away from honey, including honeyed products.
Parents and caregivers who have purchased pacifiers dipped in honey should not give them to infants, or should discontinue use and dispose of the pacifiers. The FDA further recommends that retailers selling honey dipped or filled pacifiers should discontinue selling the products.