Botulism and Raw Honey

In the past we’ve covered the issue of heating honey – primarily because of the number of inquiries we’ve had over the years wondering if heating honey would cause health problems. As we discuss in that article, heating honey is a very safe operation that, while detrimental to some of the healthier elements in the honey, poses no real threat to your health when you eat it.

In a similar vein today, we are going to discuss some of the alleged dangers of raw honey in general.

First things first – raw honey is a very safe food and under most conditions that you will find it, is perfectly safe. Honey that has been stored for hundreds (or even thousands) of years has been found and still edible – though perhaps not as delicious as the day the ancient beekeepers harvested it.

That said, there are instances where raw honey can be dangerous or cause health problems. Let’s take a look at those …

Botulism and Raw Honey

This is one of the most common questions that we have fielded – and yes, it’s true, in certain cases, raw honey can cause botulism.

First, let’s talk about botulism:

Clostridium botulinum bacteria are found worldwide in soil and sediments. They can enter your body through cuts and they can also find their way into animals, fish and agricultural products which may then become food for human consumption.

Clostridium botulinum produces one of the most potent (strongest) toxins known and tiny amounts can cause paralysis.

Source: https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Botulism

There are three primary types of botulism: intestinal, food-borne, and wound. Honey is associated with intestinal botulism. The good news?

Cases of intestinal botulism caused by raw honey are very rare!

In fact, according to our research (Feel free to correct us if you have better info!), there are less than 100 cases of botulism from honey in a year. This leads us to the most important information about botulism and honey we can share:

DO NOT GIVE HONEY TO INFANTS

Infants, especially under one year old, are by far the most at-risk of catching botulism from honey. DO NOT GIVE THEM RAW HONEY. We repeat, DO NOT give your baby raw honey.

Symptoms of botulism in an infant include:

When botulism toxin is absorbed from the intestines, it affects the nervous system. The most common symptoms in infants are muscle weakness – the infant feels “floppy” and the eyelids can droop; constipation, sometimes for several days; poor sucking and feeding; and an unusual cry. Poor feeding can quickly lead to dehydration. Muscle weakness can lead to breathing difficulties.

If you suspect botulism, please contact an emergency medical professional. We love honey and bees, but we aren’t medical doctors and cannot offer specific medical advice through this website.

Conclusion

Botulism from honey is a VERY rare occurrence, and even more rare in healthy adults. Infants are a different story – and while it’s rare, it’s extremely possible for infants to contract botulism from raw honey. So enjoy your raw honey all you like – but don’t share it with the baby. This includes cooked honey and any other honey variety. Doctors recommend waiting until the child is older than 1 year before they consume honey products.

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