Pointless Questions...with Aaron Mucciolo

Only one question this week. Between space constraints and the fact that I’ve just come from four straight meetings and/or rehearsals, that’s plenty for me. I’ll be back with a vengeance (and hopefully a haircut…this mop is getting ridiculous) in just seven short days.
And I didn’t even get to stay and gawk outside Safer Sex Night…

Is it true that honey is dangerous for infants to eat? If so, why?
-Rob Stenger, College sophomore

Infants less than a year old have not yet developed an immune system, and they are therefore far more susceptible to disease or infection. One such threat is Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes botulism.
Spores of C. botulinum can be found in many places in nature, including many raw agriculture products. About 5-10 percent of honey contains at least trace amounts of these spores.
But why, you may ask, is honey such a taboo when contamination levels are so low, and C. botulinum is found all over?
Well, doubtless some of the fervor has been whipped up over the years by news reports and anxious parents. More concerning, however, is that, while the heating of most foodstuffs during processing renders the C. botulinum inert, processed honey is not necessarily safe.
C. botulinum spores aren’t destroyed unless heated to around 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Honey can’t be heated that high because it burns. Heating honey to 170 degrees is enough to kill off other molds, yeasts, and bacteria (without changing the taste of the honey), and that’s what honey processors do to make it safe for adults. But it remains a hazard for infants.
I found some literature on a new process that may kill the spores without damaging the honey, so it may be possible in the future to feed honey to infants without fear. I also found some literature trying to debunk this danger, citing the low contamination levels and the fact that raw honey is actually healthier.
While it is true that heating honey does remove many of its healthy qualities (by destroying natural enzymes that can help with immune functions, among other things) that does not change the fact that putting C. botulinum spores — should they be present — into an infant with no immune system has an, oh, let me just estimate it as VERY HIGH chance of causing infection.

I wonder what this button does… ow, damnit. Well, now we know. Email your pointless questionto aaron.mucciolo@oberlin.edu or mail ’em to Pointless Questions c/o The Oberlin Review, Wilder Box 90, Oberlin, OH 44074. Your name will only be used with your permission.



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