Answered by toxicologist and food scientist Charles Santerre
Although honey seems like a wholesome and natural food to give your infant, don’t do it until after she’s at least 12 months old. Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which can germinate in a baby’s immature digestive system and cause infant botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness.
These spores are usually harmless to adults and children over 1 year old, because the microorganisms normally found in the intestine keep the bacteria from growing.
To be on the safe side, don’t cook with honey (in baked bread or pudding, for example) if your baby is going to be eating the finished dish. While the toxin is heat sensitive, the spores are difficult to kill. Commercial foods that contain honey, like ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and baby food, are safe for your baby because they’ve been heated enough to kill the spores.
The FDA has tested other sweeteners (such as light and dark corn syrup) and not found the harmful bacteria. But it’s a good idea to consult with your baby’s doctor about which foods are the healthiest.
If your baby shows symptoms of botulism – constipation along with muscle weakness, trouble sucking, slack jaw, or crying and lethargy – see a doctor immediately.
The possible health benefits of consuming honey have been documented in early Greek, Roman, Vedic, and Islamic texts and the healing qualities of honey were referred to by philosophers and scientists all the way back to ancient times, such as Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) and Aristoxenus (320 BC).
Honey has high levels of monosaccharides, fructose and glucose, containing about 70 to 80 percent sugar, which gives it its sweet taste – minerals and water make up the rest of its composition.
Honey also possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties. In modern science we have managed to find useful applications of honey in chronic wound management.
However, it should be noted that many of honey’s health claims still require further rigorous scientific studies to confirm them.