Honey is a widely consumed food and has a long history of being used safely. Paediatricians and health authorities advise, however, that honey of any type should never be given to infants and babies under 12 months due to the possibility that Clostridium botulinum spores (the cause of infant botulism), might be present in the honey. Spores of this bacteria do not cause problems in older children and adults because the digestive system is developed enough to deal with the bacteria. Cases of infant botulism are very rare, and while spores are also present in soil, dust and a range of common foods, because young infants are not often exposed to these there is generally no cause for concern. For more information go to www.infantbotulism.org
A Scientific Report on Honey by the Therapeutic Goods Administration found that as well as infant botulism, the other two potential risks associated with honey are toxic honey and allergy to honey. Toxic Honey is managed by limiting honey production from areas where toxic honey has been produced in the past, and through blending different batches of honeys. Honey allergy, which may be allergy to both plant and bee proteins found in the honey, is not common but is well recognised and can result in anaphylaxis.
Sterile Manuka Honey
If you have particular concerns regarding the use of Manuka Honey and have consulted with your doctor, Medical grade Manuka Honey is available and gamma-irradiated to ensure that it is sterile. A study by Molan, P.C, and Allen, K.L (1996) (below) found that the antibacterial activity of honey was maintained following gamma-irradiation, and full sterilisation of Clostridium spores was achieved.
The Effect of Gamma-irradiation on the Antibacterial Activity of Honey
"There is increasing usage of honey as a dressing on infected wounds, burns and ulcers, but there is some concern that there may be a risk of wound botulism from the clostridial spores sometimes found in honey. Therefore an investigation was carried out to assess the effect on the antibacterial activity of honey of a commercial sterilization procedure using gamma-irradiation (25 kGy). Two honeys with antibacterial activity due to enzymically-generated hydrogen peroxide and three manuka honeys with non-peroxide antibacterial activity were investigated. The honeys were tested against Staphylococcus aureus in an agar well diffusion assay. There was no significant change found in either type of antibacterial activity resulting from this form of sterilization of honey, even when the radiation was doubled to 50 kGy. Testing of honey seeded with spores of Clostridium perfringens and C. tetani (10 000 and 1000 spores/g honey, respectively) showed that 25 kGy of gamma-irradiation was sufficient to achieve sterility". MOLAN, P. C. and ALLEN, K. L. (1996), The Effect of Gamma-irradiation on the Antibacterial Activity of Honey. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 48: 1206–1209. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.1996.tb03922.x