In the laboratory, honey has been shown to hamper the growth of food-borne pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella, and to fight certain bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, both of which are common in hospitals and doctors’ offices. But whether it does the same in people hasn’t been proven.
Shop for honey and you’ll see that some are lighter, others are darker. In general, the darker the honey, the better its antibacterial and antioxidant power. Honey comes in many varieties, depending on the floral source of pollen or nectar gathered and regurgitated by the honey bee upon arrival in the hive.
Honey producers may apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a grade on their product, but the score does not account for color. Rather, the honey is judged for clarity, aroma, and flavor, and the absence of sediments, such as honeycomb particles.
Never Give Honey to an Infant
Honey is natural and considered harmless for adults. But pediatricians strongly caution against feeding honey to children under 1 year old.
“Do not let babies eat honey,” states foodsafety.gov, a web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
That’s because of the risk of botulism. The spores of the botulism bacteria are found in dust and soil that may make their way into honey. Infants do not have a developed immune system to defend against infection.
It’s been shown very clearly that honey can give infants botulism, a paralytic disorder in which the infant must be given anti-toxins and often be placed on a respirator in an intensive care unit. But parents may feed their infants cereals that contain honey. If it’s cooked, so it’s OK—we’re talking about honey out of the bottle.
The National Honey Board, which the USDA oversees, also agrees that infants should not be given honey. “The concern for babies stems from the fact that infants lack the fully developed gastrointestinal tract of older humans,” the Board’s web site states.