FDA Warns of Honey Pacifiers After Infant Botulism Cases

FDA Warns of Honey Pacifiers After Infant Botulism Cases November 17, 2018

Four babies developed botulism by consuming honey, and two government agencies issued warnings to parents about honey consumption. The FDA issued a reminder not to let children under the age of 12 months consume honey. According to the statement on the FDA website, four children in Texas developed botulism by consuming honey. All of the infants used pacifiers filled with honey. According to the FDA, individuals purchased the pacifiers in Mexico.

As reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services, four infants developed botulism between August and October.  All four of the infants required life-saving treatment. DSHS stated the infants lived in three areas of Texas and none were related. However, they all had used pacifiers purchased in Mexico.

In a statement on their website, DSHS said:

“The four illnesses occurred from mid-August to the end of October and caused all four babies to be hospitalized for life-saving treatment. The unrelated infants are residents of West Texas, North Texas and South Texas.

Botulism is a serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves and can cause difficulty breathing, paralysis and even death. Honey may contain bacteria that produce the toxin in the intestine of babies that eat it. By the time children get to be 12 months old, they’ve developed enough other types of bacteria in their digestive tract to prevent the botulism bacteria from growing and producing toxin.

DSHS today also issued a health alert asking health care providers to look out for cases of infant botulism and to remind parents not to let babies eat honey. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have long advised that children under 12 months old should not consume honey.”

Following the warning by DSHS, the FDA issued their warning on the pacifiers and giving honey to infants. Honey dipped, and honey-filled pacifiers are not common in the United States. However, individuals can purchase the products in Mexico and through online retails.

According to the DSHS report, the pacifiers have small holes poked in them, and honey can leak through the hole into the mouth of the infant. Both the DSHS and the FDA have requested all parents that have used the pacifiers in the past to discontinue using them. Families that have any of the pacifiers in the home should discard the pacifiers immediately.

Finally, the FDA is also requesting all retailers to discontinue the sale of honey-dipped or honey-filled pacifiers. Online retailers including Amazon have already removed the pacifiers from their sites.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • B.A.

    I’ve read that a pacifier dipped in honey can also cause terrible tooth decay.

  • persephone

    This is why “sugar is bad, honey is better” is just wrong. I like honey sometimes, and since I don’t eat much, I treat myself to a small jar of Tupelo honey now and then. But I’ve quit buying raw honey, because I have immune disorders, and I can’t risk it. I can’t even imagine how overwhelmed a baby’s system could be by botulism.

    My grandmother told me that, when my mom was a baby, people where she lived (Ozarks) would give their babies something called a “sugar teat.” They would put a spoonful of sugar into some plain cotton cloth, twist it around and tie it, then let the babies suck on it, like a pacifier, which was apparently something not common at the time (1930s). At least, with sugar, the odds of bacteria are extremely low, though using too much could damage the baby teeth coming in.

    Oh, look, from the Wikipedia article on pacifiers: “Pacifiers were a development of hard teething rings, but they were also a substitute for the softer sugar tits, sugar-teats or sugar-rags which had been in use in 19th century America. A writer in 1873 described a “sugar-teat” made from “a small piece of old linen” with a “spoonful of rather sandy sugar in the center of it”, “gathered … up into a little ball” with a thread tied tightly around it. Rags with foodstuffs tied inside were also given to babies in many parts of Northern Europe and elsewhere. In some places a lump of meat or fat was tied in cloth, and sometimes the rag was moistened with brandy. German-speaking areas might use Lutschbeutel, cloth wrapped around sweetened bread or maybe poppy-seeds.”

    Poppy seeds would certainly calm down a baby.

  • I always wondered why the label on honey includes a warning not to give it to infants. Now I know. Cool.

  • Golgafrinchan_Ark_B

    The same thing applies to dipping a pacifier into honey and corn syrup. And as B.A. points out, they will contribute to teeth decay, which is far more likely.

  • Golgafrinchan_Ark_B

    My German grandmother used to give her 13 babies schnapps to calm them down. It might be unrelated, but my father became an alcoholic.

  • Cynthia

    Even if botulism doesn’t kill a baby, this is a sure-fire way to cause massive tooth decay. I had a case years ago where parents did this and the child required surgery with many extractions.

  • Jennny

    As well as causing tooth decay, using any sweeteners so early in a baby’s life is going to cause them to develop a ‘sweet tooth’ far too early. In the UK, the largest reason for under 8yos to be admitted to hospital, is to have decayed teeth extracted. The healthy eating message has got through to many many mums, but obviously, sadly too many still don’t get it.

  • mordred

    The local doctor in the German village I grew up in told my mother to give me some beer when I had trouble sleeping as an infant. She ignored that recommendation and went to another doctor. That was in the 1970s!

  • mordred

    I really didn’t know about honey being such an infection risk. I like to use honey as a sweetener in tea or so, because I like the taste.

    Always assumed “sugar is bad, honey is sugar”.

  • babies cannot break it down

  • Morgan Sheridan

    Oddly, I grew up in the 60s knowing that honey was dangerous for babies. It’s funny how information cycles again and again.

  • Adrian

    For that matter, there were plenty of early-20th century cough drugs and similar medicines that contained heroin and where used to keep babies calm… Thanks, Bayer!

    I’ve also heard stories about nannies from the Antilles adding a bit of rum in the baby’s bottle…

  • Adrian

    A day where you learned something is a day well spent ^^

  • I’d like them to bring back the cannabis elixirs.

  • Adrian

    Well, considering the movement toward depenalisation of cannabis, that might actually happen.

    Would these elixirs help with a toothache? It takes forever to have an appointment with my new dentist…

  • Help, probably. How fast, I dunno. That might depend on delivery route. Oral ingestion, up to two hours to take effect. Topical, probably a lot quicker. My preferred method is to smoke it because it’s almost instant relief.

  • Adrian

    Additional knowledge acquired!

    Although I’m afraid this will remain purely academical knowledge, as I wouldn’t have a clue where/how to acquire cannabis ^^” (plus, my lungs are one of the last more-or-less healthy parts of my organism, so I’m in no hurry to start smoking. I guess I’ll have to make do with Paracetamol)

  • Robert Baden

    Probably also a good way to get Clostridium difficile.
    And watch out for home made herb oils.

  • swbarnes2

    The issue with very young babies is that normal household cooking temperatures will not kill botulism spores. A normal person’s stomach is acidic enough to neutralize them, but a baby’s is not (think how bad all that spitting up would be if babies had strongly acidic stomach acids like everyone else does)

  • Baby would just be miserable — stomach acid in the esophagus hurts.