Honey and Health; Infant Botulism

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Though honey has not been refined the way table sugar is and is chemically complex, it is no wonder food. Its vitamin content is negligible; bees get most of theirs from pollen. Its antibacterial properties, which led early physicians to use it to dress wounds, are due largely to hydrogen peroxide, one of the products of glucose-oxidizing enzyme and a substance well known and long employed in medicine. And honey should not be fed to children less than a year old. It often carries the seed-like dormant spores of the botulism bacterium (Clostridium botulinum), which are able to germinate in immature digestive systems. Infant botulism can cause difficulty in breathing and paralysis.