Does Raw Honey Go Bad?
You have heard that honey does not really have an expiration date, but given that basically every other food on earth does go bad at some point, this seems too good to be true. While it may seem counterintuitive, honey actually does not go bad — as long as it is stored properly, that is. In this guide, we will explain why the unique chemical composition protects raw honey from spoiling, and how you can protect it from contamination in your pantry.
Does Raw Honey Go Bad?
The short answer is that when properly stored, raw honey does not go bad. In fact, it is pretty much the only food on earth that does not go bad! This is because honey has several natural properties that make it resistant to fermentation, bacterial development and other factors that normally shorten the shelf life of foods.
First of all, honey has an extremely low moisture content and a very high sugar content. The high sugar content results in a very high osmotic pressure, which basically just means that water flows out of any microbes’ cells, which stops them from growing or reproducing.
The sugar and water molecules also interact together in such a way that microorganisms cannot use the water to ferment or break down the honey. This makes it almost impossible for bacteria to survive, which protects honey from spoil.
Honey is also slightly acidic, which further contributes to an environment that is unfriendly for bacteria and other potentially harmful microorganisms. Furthermore, honey is also so dense that it is almost impossible for oxygen to dissolve in it. This also acts as a safeguard against microbes growing and reproducing.
Honey also contains additional compounds that help to further protect it against spoiling. For instance, when bees collect and store nectar, they release an enzyme into it called glucose oxidase. As this enzyme converts sugar into gluconic acid, it also produces hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic, antimicrobial substance that helps further defend against bad bacteria. (Fun fact: This is also part of the reason honey was used as a wound treatment in ancient times.)
Why Storing Honey Properly Is Important
As you can see, due to its chemical composition, honey is naturally resistant to spoiling. However, if you do not store it correctly, then you can introduce bacteria, moisture and other substances into the honey that could compromise its shelf life.
For instance, using wet or contaminated utensils to scoop the honey out of the jar will introduce moisture and bacteria into the honey jar, which could potentially lead to fermentation. If the container does not have an airtight seal, that can also introduce moisture and microorganisms into the honey, so make sure that you replace the cap carefully each time.
Other factors can change the taste and color of the honey. For example, heat can definitely change the flavor of honey, so keep it away from stoves, microwaves, electric kettles and other kitchen appliances that emit heat. Storing honey in metal or plastic containers can oxidize the honey, so it should be stored in airtight glass jars like the ones we use at Brightland.
Do note that if the honey darkens or crystallizes, that does not mean that the honey has gone bad. In fact, these are perfectly natural processes that do not impact your ability to eat honey safely. In the extremely rare case that you introduce enough water or microorganisms to cause spoiling, the honey will smell or taste wrong and also have a foamy appearance or lots of extra water. In other words, it will be extremely obvious that the honey is no longer good to eat. However, as long as you store the honey properly, you will not have to worry about it going off. Learn more about how to store raw honey in our dedicated guide.
Raw honey is not only delicious and good for you, it has an extremely long shelf life — but it tastes so good you will almost certainly finish off the jar long before you have to worry about the honey getting too old. If you are looking for some new raw honey to try, consider Brightland’s raw honey set The Couplet. It features two different flavors, California Orange Blossom and Kauai Wildflower, to give you a taste of the many delicious raw honey varieties available. We also package all our honeys in airtight glass jars, never metal or plastic, for ideal long-term storage.