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Botulism in infants - information for parents and caregivers

Starting date:
February 12, 2014
Type of communication:
Information Update
Subcategory:
Drugs
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Issue:
Food Safety
Audience:
General Public
Identification number:
RA-38007

Issue

Infant botulism is a very rare but serious form of illness that can affect children up to one year. It is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. This bacteria forms "spores" that when swallowed may grow and produce a poison in the baby's intestine.

C. botulinum can be found in both pasteurized and unpasteurized honey. Therefore, it is very important to never feed honey to a child under the age of one. As the spores are not easily destroyed by heat (for example by cooking or boiling), it should also not be added to infants' food as a sweetener. C. botulinum can also be found in soil and dust.

Signs and Symptoms of Infant Botulism:

Constipation is often the first sign of infant botulism that parents notice (although many other illnesses also can cause constipation). Contact your health care provider if your baby hasn't had a bowel movement for several days.

Other symptoms can include:

  • weakness and/or lack of energy
  • too weak to cry or suck as usual
  • wobbly head because the neck is weak
  • lacks facial expression
  • weak arms and legs
  • has trouble breathing
  • unable to swallow

What you should do

  • Don’t give honey to infants younger than one year of age
  • Don’t add honey to their formula, food or water
  • Don’t put honey on their soother

Older children (more than one year old) can safely eat honey. 

Media enquiries

Health Canada
(613) 957-2983

Public enquiries

(613) 957-2991
1-866 225-0709

For more information