Honey - Infant Botulism - Food Poisoning - Nigerian Naming Ceremony

Infant Botulism, a type of food poisoning that affects babies, was the last thing I expected to discover when I started reading about babies and honey.

It all started a few months ago …

I was looking at a bottle of honey and noticed a peculiar warning written on one side of the label, paraphrased below:

Do not feed to infants under 1 year old

Who are infants under 1 year old? Teenagers Millenials Babies, of course.

So, the label warned against feeding honey to babies.

You can imagine my shock.  I had never heard such a thing before.  And what about all those traditional naming ceremonies where they use honey, alligator pepper (atare), kolanut, orogbo, palm oil, etc? Sometimes, the people conducting the ceremony even give the baby a sample of these things to taste.  Translation: some babies have already been fed honey.  

So what’s the big deal?

Honey Can Cause Infant Botulism, i.e. Food Poisoning in Babies

Well, honey and babies don’t mix because of potential food poisoning.  The official name for this type of food poisoning is Infant Botulism, and it’s also known as Botulism Poisoning.  So how can sweet, sticky honey poison a baby?

Honey can contain the spores of a bacterium called Clostridium Botulinum.  Adults have a fully developed digestive system.  But the acidity in their stomachs and the large amount of competitive bacteria in their guts, prevent the spores from growing.  For these reasons, adults don’t have to worry about consuming honey.

But that’s not the case with babies.  A baby’s digestive system is not fully developed.  That means if Clostridium Botulinum is introduced into a baby’s digestive system, the “ideal conditions” will encourage production of the botulinum toxin in the baby’s intestinal tract.

Symptoms of Infant Botulism

Symptoms of infant botulism include constipation, slack jaw and lethargy.  The horrible results? Paralysis and even death.

A few points worth noting:

  • A breastfeeding mother who consumes honey cannot pass the spores on to her child
  • Don’t dip a baby’s pacifier in honey before giving it to him/her
  • Don’t add honey to water, food or formula fed to babies


Quite interesting, isn’t it? I thought so too, and decided to share.  You’re welcome.  🙂

P. S. Calling your baby “Honey” or “Sugar” is perfectly safe and acceptable.  Not poisonous or dangerous at all.  But, please, please, please observe the following warning:

Infants under 12 months old should not be called
alligator pepper, palm oil, or kola nut. Na beg we take beg you!

Have an awesome week!




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