The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents not to give honey to children under the age of one following reports of four botulism cases in Texas. In a statement made Friday, the FDA said that the infants who were hospitalized had used pacifiers “filled with or dipped in honey.”
While the pacifiers which led to the hospitalizations (the first of which was reported in mid-August) were purchased in Mexico, the FDA cautions that similar products are sold in the U.S. These pacifiers, which have small holes that could easily rupture or leak honey, are equally dangerous. According to the announcement, giving honey to an infant under 12 months old greatly increases the risk of botulism poisoning.
“Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves and causes difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and even death,” explains the FDA, whose concerns are shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The potentially fatal illness is caused by spores of Clostridium botulinum, which are found in honey. And when ingested by an infant, those spores can quickly spread in their stomach, which isn’t developed enough to fight off the toxins.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has also issued a warning, urging parents or caregivers who suspect their child may be in danger to get medical help. “Prompt recognition of a suspect case, administration of antitoxin, and initiation of supportive care can halt progression of the disease,” the department stated, cautioning that botulism symptoms can also look like other illnesses, so parents should keep a close eye out.
For anyone who has purchased or used a honey pacifier in the past, the FDA recommends to immediately stop using it and discard it. The agency is also advising retailers who sell the products to discontinue their sales.