# Talk

## Honey.....is there really a risk?????

(17 Posts)
cheekyginger Sun 25-Sep-11 20:48:45

Me and my DH got into a debate about honey and why infants under 1 year shouldnt have it.

I understand all about baby botulism but hadnt ever taken the time to read up on the actual risk.

My very smug DH did some interesting "research" and discovered that over the last 25 years only 40 cases of baby botulism were linked with the bacteria found in honey. The highest risk being in babies under 6 months.

460, 000 babies are born everyday in europe, this equates to 167,900,000 per year. Over 25 years this is a phenominal number. In other words the risk of your baby developing botulism from eating honey, (in an infant over 6 months) is about as likely as your baby being able to build a time machine before their first birthday!!

By no means am I suggesting that you feed your babies honey.......but thought i would share our debate

SamsungAndDelilah Sun 25-Sep-11 20:59:28

yes, there is a risk.

your maths is faulty. You need to use conditional probability. Most babies born in Europe are not fed honey (because of the advice), so your calculations hould be based on the risk of getting botulism given the child was fed honey

me, I'd take the advice. I don't think there's a magic botulism fairy that disappears as you blow out the candle on the first birthday cake, but understand that there is a scientific basis for avoiding feeding honey to infants.

MissyMaker Sun 25-Sep-11 21:04:44

Are one hundred and sixty seven million and nine hundred thousand babies really born every year in Europe?! Is that within the EU or the wider Europe? Sorry for the derail, but I am staggered it is this many.

And what Samsung said (she's obv very clever )

Sun 25-Sep-11 21:06:57

Agree with Samsung. Babies aren't given honey (usually) so of course cases are low.
You wouldn't start feeding your baby whisky because so few babies die of alcohol poisoning now would you?!

cheekyginger Sun 25-Sep-11 21:06:58

From all that i have read the risk is only really present for children under 6 months, and generally from mums rubbing it on their nipples to encourage very young babies to suckle.

My maths may be tripe. But as you say the "magic botulism fairy" doesnt just vanish at your LO's 1st birthday.

Just really wanted to point out the risk is very very low past 6 months, just incase some poor mum or dad has given honey to their LO before they were a year and are having a heart attack over it.

suzikettles Sun 25-Sep-11 21:07:19

Wot Samsung said. You'd need to know how many babies were fed honey to get an idea of the real risk.

For example, (and granted, unlikely) if only 2 babies a year were fed honey then that's almost 100% of the babies who had the honey getting botulism.

The true percentage will obv be much, much smaller than that.

Honey isn't too much of a pita to avoid so, slack mum that I usually am, it's a rule that I chose to follow.

suzikettles Sun 25-Sep-11 21:09:45

I do get your point though. Most of these rules are to avoid vanishingly improbable events.

More likely than baby building a time machine. Less likely than choking on a grape.

violetwellies Sun 25-Sep-11 21:17:08

The honey implicated in the few UK cases was all imported. There have been no cases of botulism involving UK produced honey. One of the cases was caused by contaminated formula. I cant do links on this phone. Google botulism Uk honey hth.

cheekyginger Sun 25-Sep-11 21:20:12

Ok ok so my maths was tripe. BUT their is no way of knowing the number of babies that are fed honey that are absolutely fine, is there?

Found this quote from the Gaurdian newspaper dated 2005:
"Honey has become a scary food for modern parents. I know of one father who suffered a panic attack after mistakenly giving his 11-month-old daughter a fruit smoothie containing a tiny dab of honey. Yet the risks are not as obvious as the labels suggest. And the history behind the warning is both ambiguous and full of irony"

(This is the article it an interesting read http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2005/aug/25/health.society)

My hubby is quite fascinated by all this. Finds it remarkable that us woman discuss these things to death!!

Just to point out i'm not actually planning on feeding my 5 mo honey but certainly wouldnt be worried about it if he does once he's older than 6months.

cheekyginger Sun 25-Sep-11 21:23:14

thanks violetwellies, just wanted to get us all thinking.....i read that about the contaminated formula too!!! I wasnt brave enough to post that on here!!

Most of the cases are in california where there is a higher incidence of the botulism bacteria on the soil.

suzikettles Sun 25-Sep-11 21:42:59

Now, there was a Casualty episode years back about a baby with botulism who had (I think) been fed honey by his or her sister (quite innocently). I think everything I know about baby botulism probably comes from this episode and I suspect I'm not alone...

cheekyginger Sun 25-Sep-11 21:52:47

Cheers for that Suzi.....parenting is hard enough at times without all this extra stuff that makes us worry more!!!!

TV programmes are probably to blame for lots of misleading information. But that's not going to stop me watching Grey's anatomy or any other trashy rubbish!

sallysparrow157 Sun 25-Sep-11 22:05:19

I've seen a case of botulism, the baby needed intensive care treatment for a reasonably long time. Yes, it's a tiny risk (rare enough that I was asked to present the case at a national conference) but on the other hand there is no real NEED to feed a baby honey and botulism is difficult to treat, very difficult to diagnose and can be life threatening so why not just avoid honey until the baby is over one (when the immune system is sufficiently developed that botulism isn't a problem - it's not a magic thing that happens at the age of one, it's just that people's immune systems develop at different rates, so although in some babies giving honey is ok well before the age of 1, by the time they are 1 all babies will have sufficiently developed immune systems)
So - it's rare enough that I would not panic if a baby has accidentally had some honey, but bloody serious enough when it happens that I would not suggest deliberately feeding honey to babies.

cheekyginger Sun 25-Sep-11 22:10:22

Hey sally, i absolutely agree about not deliberately feeding honey to babies. It's not exactly a key nutritional element!!

Just thought it was an interesting topic, as my husband likes to know WHY he shouldnt do certain things.

sallysparrow157 Sun 25-Sep-11 22:14:08

Oh, and if i remember rightly from my research, yes that number of 40 babies os over 25 years but the majority of those 40 were in the last 5 years - the organism causing botulism is bloody hard to culture and is difficult to isolate from honey even when that is the most likely source - so although only 40 cases have been proven to be due to honey, many more may be very likely due to honey but not proven. (This is remembered from a year ago so I may be wrong but I don't think I am!)
The antitoxin costs \$45000 per dose (not including shipping from the states) too and has not insignificant side effects although the MOD has a secret stock in case it is used as bio-warfare...

sallysparrow157 Sun 25-Sep-11 22:20:24

It's a risk-benefit thing! If there was great nutritional benefit to honey in under 1's and a tiny risk of botulism then that would be a different matter. Or if botulism caused a bit of a runny nose for a day or two, the risk would be no big deal. But as there is no huge nutritional need for honey in the first week of life, and, although the incidence of botulism is very low, it is a life threatening condition that can make you completely unable to breathe or eat or drink for several weeks (that is if someone has twigged that you have botulism and doesn't assume that the fact that you are not breathing or responsive in any way, and have fixed and dilated pupils is due to irreversibel brain damage) - the risks of giving babies honey outweigh the benefits so we advise against it

cheekyginger Mon 26-Sep-11 15:14:16

Hi Sally,

Thanks for that. You make a very good point about the risk-benefit.

The article i quoted earlier. I really felt for the poor dad that had a panic attack because his 11 mo child accidently consumed some honey.

Think we all have to be realistic about risks. I like to know why things are a "risk" and how much of a risk they are, rather than being worried about the consequences when the risk is actually very small.

After what ive read online and peoples comments on here i certainly wouldnt be too worried if my DS accidently ate honey, but i certainly wont be adding it to his diet as as you say there is no benefit.

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