It is well recognised that honey is the only food that will not spoil. It does candy, but when heated will return to it’s thick liquid state.
It is also often considered to be antibacterial by many. However. two baby boys in Britain are currently fighting cases of Botulism potentially caused by eating honey.
The bacteria causing Botulism is called Clostridium botulinum and is an anaerobe. This means it grows in oxygen deprived environments, this makes honey a perfect source for this bacteria.
Botulism has a mortality rate of at least 33 percent in healthy adults. This means that if three healthy adults were to contract the disease, one of them will not survive. In the high risks groups, including babies, this rate is much higher due to the immune system not being as strong as in healthy adults. This makes Clostridium botulinum one of the most dangerous of all the food poisoning bacteria.
The bacteria produces a toxin which acts in much the same way as one of the types of snake venom, and impacts the heart and lungs, eventually causing them to shut down.
The baby boys were on life support machines, and have been cured but the medication had to be flown from the USA with a cost of £50 000 per dose. Their full recovery may take as much as half a year.
This food poisoning incident once again reinforces the message of health authorities around the world that infants under one should not be fed honey as their immune system is not yet strong enough. Interestingly, only one of the boys actually ate honey, the other was given a homeopathic treatment that contained honey.
There has not been a human case of botulism in Australia in more than 20 years due to the tight food law we have for handling, processing and packing the types of foods that are prone to allow C.botulinum growth. A small amount of the bacteria are kept in selected secure laboratories around the whole to confirm cases if they occur.
Written by Rachelle Williams – the Green Food Safety Coach