Honey doesn't Go Bad, Why?

Honey doesn't Go Bad, Why?

Honey Doesn't Go Bad

Honey is magic. Besides its delicious taste, it's pretty much the only naturally-occurring food that does not spoil. But why, exactly, doesn't honey go bad?

Many does not know that it has lot of pretty incredible properties. Many medical researchers had claimed that it is an excellent treatment for open wounds.  Manuka Honey is one of such that is widely known.

The Babylonians buried their dead in honey, and body of Alexander the Great was in a coffin full of the natural liquid produce to preserve it. The oldest form of it ever found was unearthed in Georgia, and dates back over 5,000 years. 

Chemical Properties of Honey

Althought it is mainly sugar, there is a variety of documented health benefits of substituting honey for sugar.  While it isn't the same as regular, refined sugar, it's still a sugar.  And sugars are hygroscopic – they don't contain much water in their natural state. And very few bacteria and microorganisms can live in the resulting low-moisture environment.

Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at Univeristy of California says, “Honey in its natural form is very low moisture. Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that, they just die. The honey smothered them, essentially.”

The fact that organisms can't survive long in it means they don't get the chance to spoil it. Another thing that sets it apart from other sugars is its acidity.  It's pH is between 3 and 4.5, which also kills off anything trying to make a home in this "golden liquid". 

Also, the following are some reasons why it does not go bad:

Bees "Dries" Honey

Bees contribute to the low water content by flapping their wings to dry out nectar.  As they do that, bees get nectar into the combs by regurgitating in them.  

This sounds may not sound that appetising, but the chemical makeup of bees' stomachs also contributes to its long shelf-life.  Bees' stomachs produces an called enzyme glucose oxidase, which is added to the honey when the nectar is regurgitated.

The enzyme and nectar break mix to create gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide is also a potent formula against anything trying to grow in it.


Beekeeper Inspecting a hive with bees



This is a critical factor in this natural food's longevity.  The fact that it is hydroscopic means that it has little water in its natural state but it also meant that it easily sucks in water if its exposed to it.  If it does that, it could spoil. So the final key to honey remaining unspoiled is making sure it's well sealed and stored in a dry place.

 Storage of Food in a Dry Place



Honey that crystalises is still good for consumption.  Americans apparently see crystallization as "wrong," so large packers filter it to remove any particles which may lead to crystallization.

Raw and organic honey doesn't go through the process, but that doesn't mean it's going to spoil.  Also, different honey has different rates of crystallization. So it may just be that the honey you have is more prone to crystallization.

So crystallization doesn't mean there's anything "wrong" with your "liquid gold" — but if you don't like it, the best way is not to put it in the refrigerator.

Also, at temperatures above 25 degrees Celcius, it resists crystallization best.  Therefore, if you want to avoid heating it directly to remove crystals, use indirect heating like putting a jar of it in a bigger bowl of warm water.  You may also want to avoid putting it in refrigerator altogether.


Crystallised Honey


Yes, honey can expire, but it has a very long shelf life. It has a low water content and high sugar content, which makes it a hostile environment for bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause spoilage. However, over time, the quality of honey can deteriorate due to factors such as exposure to light, heat, and moisture.

Honey that has been stored properly can remain edible for years or even decades. However, the color, texture, and flavor of the honey may change over time. Raw honey may also crystallize over time, which is a natural process that does not affect the quality or safety of the honey.

If honey develops an off-flavor, strange smell, or visible mold growth, it is best to discard it, as it may no longer be safe to consume. Additionally, honey should not be given to infants under one year of age, as it may contain spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which can cause infant botulism.


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