Health Canada

Health Canada

February 01, 2011 14:04 ET

Information Update: Preventing Botulism in Infants

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 1, 2011) - Health Canada is advising parents and caregivers not to feed honey to children under one year old. Honey is the only food in Canada to which infant botulism has been linked.

Infant botulism is a serious disease that can affect children who are less than one year old. Infant botulism is caused by bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which commonly exists in nature. The bacteria can't grow or make toxins in honey, but if an infant swallows honey, the spores in the bacteria may grow and produce toxins in the baby's body and could cause paralysis

The bacteria and toxin that cause botulism are microscopic and do not change the colour, odour or taste of food. The bacteria is not destroyed by cooking.

In Canada, there have been 38 reported cases of infant botulism between 1979 and 2010. Parents and caregivers can prevent infant botulism by never feeding honey to children under one year of age. This includes never adding honey to baby food and never using honey on a soother. 

Symptoms of Infant Botulism

If your infant does ingest honey, immediately contact your doctor if your child shows any of these symptoms:

  • Is too weak to cry or suck as usual;
  • Does not have bowel movements and has weak muscles;
  • Has a wobbly head because the neck is weak;
  • Lacks facial expression;
  • Has weak arms and legs;
  • Has trouble breathing, or
  • Is not able to swallow.

More information, including Health Canada's advice regarding infant botulism, can be found in the It's Your Health article on Infant Botulism.

For more information on infant botulism and food safety, please visit:

Government of Canada's Tip Sheet on Infant Botulism (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/infant-botul-infantile-eng.php)

Public Health Agency of Canada's page on Botulism (http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ep-mu/botulism-eng.php)

Food Safety Facts on Botulism (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/concen/cause/botulisme.shtml)

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