Barbecue sauce should not be given to babies or any children under the age of one. Your favorite barbecue sauce is probably not safe for your baby to eat. Before you plan a backyard barbecue check what the ingredient list and find out just what is in your sauce.
Popular brands like Sweet Baby Ray’s, Open Pit, Kraft, KC Masterpiece, Bull’s Eye and most other store bought brands of barbecue sauce contain significant amounts of high fructose corn syrup. Most barbecue sauces, whether it be Kansas City, East Carolina, Memphis, or Texas style, contain a sweetener; usually derived from sugar or corn.
Honey is also a common ingredient in barbecue sauces especially in traditional homemade and sweet-style recipes.
Can I Give My Baby Barbecue Sauce? Not Recommended
Pediatricians warn against foods containing high fructose corn syrup or honey due to the risk of infant botulism. The risk of your child developing botulism depends on whether or not the spores of a bacterium called Clostridum botulium. These spores are commonly found in honey and corn syrup. A baby’s digestive system is not mature enough to digest the spores which can germinate and cause this serious and potentially fatal illness.
The Problem with Corn Syrup
Because corn syrup is so incredibly cheap it is used as a sweetener in thousands of foods to trigger our sweet tooth and to create a craving or a desire for the food. As corn syrup finds its way into more of our food, anyone with infants or babies should be aware of what is in the food they serve. The greatest risk your baby faces from barbecue sauce is the contraction of infant botulism which can arise if your baby consumes honey or corn syrup. Corn syrup is prevalent in many of the foods we eat and your baby may digest a food that uses corn syrup as an ingredient.
Corn syrup and honey are most dangerous to a baby when they are in their raw form; while cooking reduces some of the risk, it does not eliminate it because the spores from the bacteria are resistant to heat. Besides residing in honey and corn syrup the bacterial spores are commonly found in contaminated soil. Hand-washing and proper food preparation is essential for exactly this reason; the spores can travel from the dirt under your fingernails and on your hands into any food you prepare if you do not follow proper hand-washing techniques.
Make Your Own Sauce
If you are looking for a baby-safe barbecue sauce your best bet is to try your hand at making your own. Cooking your own sauce is simple and will give you a sense of accomplishment and the peace of mind exactly what is in your sauce. Delicious, authentic recipes can be found online with instructions for different styles and flavors of barbecue sauce. Styles of barbecue sauce differ from region to region but they can be generalized into three types according to their base: vinegar, tomato, or mustard. Spices, chilies, peppers, herbs, and flavorings are all used to create a sauce just the way you like it.
Different Cultures, Different Reactions
Interestingly enough, the spices and seasonings used in barbecue sauces are not harmful to babies and in many cultures like India and Mexico babies are introduced to spices and flavors early in their development. Babies should not eat store bought barbecue sauce unless it is absolutely does not contain any honey or corn syrup, but there is no reason why your child could not enjoy a baby-safe barbecue sauce prepared at home.
If you child does consume corn syrup or honey speak to your pediatrician and watch for symptoms of infant botulism. Symptoms may include constipation, saggy eyelids, slowed or stopped breathing, loss of gag reflex, loss of head control, loss of muscle strength, lethargy, weak cry, or paralysis that spreads downward. If you believe your child may have contracted infant botulism take your child to the hospital. If detected early enough and with the right treatment babies can make a full recovery, but in complicated cases the illness is fatal.