Can I Give My Baby Cooked Foods Containing Honey?

Posted on Oct 10 2009 - 8:04am by Christine

You have probably heard that honey should never be given to babies under one year of age. The reason for this is that honey may contain bacteria that could lead to botulism. Once your baby reaches 12 months of age, his digestive system should be developed enough to kill the spores responsible for botulism infection.

We’ve received a few e-mails in the past from parents who have discovered this information after feeding honey to their babies, which – understandably – caused them a great deal of worry! If you do inadvertently give your baby honey, do bear in mind that – although botulism is a serious condition – it is rare.

The symptoms of botulism poisoning tend to appear within 18-36 hours – so if you gave the honey to your baby before then, it’s likely there will be no problems at all. If you gave it to him within that time frame, then the signs to look for include

  • constipation (usually the very first symptom)
  • difficulties in feeding – baby’s sucking action becomes weak
  • lethargy and lack of facial expression
  • weak cry
  • breathing difficulties
  • drooling more than usual

Source: Health Canada

You should, of course, immediately consult your child’s doctor if any of these symptoms are present, or if you have any concerns.

Another question we are sometimes asked is whether or not it is safe to give babies cooked items containing honey, such as certain breads and breakfast cereals.

Our personal recommendation is to give these food items a miss until your little one is 12 months old. Opinion is somewhat divided on this issue -The National Honey Board, for example, states on its website

Spores are inactivated when manufactured food products (such as cereals or nuts) receive a roasting heat treatment. Graham crackers or cereal, for example, would not contain any viable microbial spores

However, other sources – including child health expert Dr Greene – state that

Because the spores are so heat-resistant, there is a theoretical risk for babies eating even processed foods containing honey.

Indeed, whilst honey may be cooked in the production of these products, it is not generally heat pasteurized, so botulism spores may still be present.

Our opinion in this situation is that the risk – however small – is not worth taking, since there are so many other wonderful foods that your little one can be consuming during his first year. Also, offering too many sweet foods – even those sweetened with honey – can lead to a preference for sugary flavours, which certainly isn’t a preference your little one is born with!

And if you DO need to sweeten any foods for your baby, then use a sweet fruit puree instead – our trust favourite is banana, which we use often to sweeten tart foods for our little one and which adds its own nutritious elements to the dish!

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14 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Danielle July 19, 2016 at 8:47 am -

    What about lotions containing honey? Is there risk to my 4 month olds by using a nighttime lotion that contains honey on their skin, especially now because they are putting their hands in their mouths?

  2. Christine July 20, 2016 at 4:42 am -

    That’s an interesting question and not something we’ve considered before. The situation is likely the same as with baked foods – ie, the risk is there, although it’s small. For safety’s sake, then, it might be better to avoid lotions containing honey (or any unpleasant chemicals!) until after 12 months. Have you thought of coconut oil instead? It has a lovely smell, is a wonderful moisturizer and is not considered highly allergenic. 🙂

  3. Sara Salgado August 24, 2016 at 6:46 am -

    I gave my little girl a bit of honey I put it in her pacifier she hasny had any symptoms should I still be worried

  4. Christine August 24, 2016 at 7:34 am -

    Sara, please try not to worry but do watch out for any of the symptoms listed above. If you are in any doubt at all, then please do speak to your doctor.

  5. Lauren Levitre September 13, 2016 at 9:55 pm -

    I gave my 9 month old baked beans last night for dinner, I then remembered that they have honey in them. He has been more fussy than usual but he may be teething as well. He only had around 10 actual beans before losing interest and crawling away. Is that even enough to really have to worry about botulism?

  6. Christine September 19, 2016 at 1:05 pm -

    So sorry, Lauren, for the late reply to your comment. I do hope that all is now well with your little man. In answer to your question, although the risk of the beans containing botulism is small, only a small amount of any food containing botulism spores would need to be consumed in order to cause illness.

  7. Dee July 18, 2017 at 1:34 am -

    I gave my almost 9 mth old. Peter pan simply ground Honey roasted peanut butter. She’s 5 days shy of 9 months. It was 3 days ago and she was constipated it seems because bowel was pretty hard. Should I call pediatrician??

  8. Christine July 18, 2017 at 2:06 pm -

    It’s likely that she would have shown further signs since then if there were anything wrong – but it’s always best to seek a professional medical opinion if you are in any doubt at all. Please let us know how she gets on.

  9. Becs October 6, 2017 at 11:58 pm -

    My LO had a boneless chicken wing that was covered in honey BBQ sauce. She’s 11 months, I’m a litho concerned.

  10. Christine October 9, 2017 at 12:07 pm -

    So sorry, Becs, for the late reply. I am sure that all is well, but – as always – please do speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

  11. Sarah October 11, 2017 at 12:11 pm -

    LO was with dad Sunday (3 days ago) and someone gave him barbecue sauce. I’m not sure if it was honey bbq but LO hasn’t had a bowel movement since Sunday before the bbq was given to him and he’s a once a day pooper. That is the only symptom, should I call the pediatrician??

  12. Christine October 12, 2017 at 10:49 am -

    Hi Sarah – I hope that, by now, your little one has pooped. As stated in the article, botulism poisoning is rare – but if you have concerns, please do speak to your doctor to put your mind at rest. Best wishes to you and baby.

  13. Joy November 7, 2017 at 5:24 pm -

    I just gave my 7 month old roasted chicken and I remember that the flavour is honey bbq. I’m so worried right now. I hope she will be fine.

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