A few days ago, I heard that honey could last forever, even thousands of years. Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical. So, I did some extensive research and decided to share my findings in this article.
If properly stored, honey does not expire or go bad. Stored in an airtight container away from moisture, light, contaminants, and extreme temperatures, honey can last hundreds or even thousands of years. However, bacteria can grow in honey if food particles or moisture are inside of it.
While honey actually does have an indefinite shelf life, there are a few more things you will need to know before you eat that stuff you found stored away for a hundred years. Please read on for the details.
How Long Can You Keep Raw Honey?
So long as the raw honey is stored correctly, it can last indefinitely. The honey must be sealed and kept away from moisture and light. Also, it can not be contaminated and must remain at temperatures, ideally below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, this type of honey does not require refrigeration.
Can Honey Really Last 3000 Years?
Archaeological discoveries in Egypt have found 3,000-year-old pots of honey stored inside a tomb. The honey has remained unspoiled and is still actually edible. Honey was a part of ancient Egyptian life dating back to 2,400 BCE. It was used as a sacrificial offering, an embalming preservative, and a treatment for healing infected wounds.
Related Is Honey a Good Survival Food? (How to Store It).
Does Honey Go Bad Or Expire?
If properly stored, honey generally does not go bad or expire. This includes both raw honey (where the honey is only filtered for debris and other impurities) and processed honey (which has been pasteurized, filtered, and/or strained) that has been put in a sealed container stays at temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or room temperatures (60 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and is stored in a dry, dark place.
There are exceptions, however, as honey exposed to dust, insects, pollen, and moisture can allow molds, yeast, and bacteria to grow. One of these bacteria is Clostridium Botulinum, which produces botulism-causing toxins. The bacteria that usually exist in honey in harmless amounts to adults. However, studies have shown that feeding infants honey may induce C. botulinum infections and be advised against the practice.
Why Doesn’t Honey Go Bad?
Honey is a food that is made of mostly hygroscopic sugars. This means that the sugars within the honey contain very little moisture — so long as the honey is kept sealed. Bacteria can not exist in this low-moisture environment. Therefore they do not flourish. In addition to this, honey has a low pH level (3 to 4.5), meaning it is relatively acidic. This also prevents bacteria from growing.
Finally, when honeybees make honey, one of the byproducts produced is hydrogen peroxide. This is a chemical disinfectant that prevents bacterial growth. If honey does ever grow bacteria or mold, it has likely been exposed to humidity, moisture, or contaminants (like dirt or food particles).
Does Honeycomb Go Bad?
As with honey, if stored correctly in a sealed container at room temperatures, honeycomb does not go bad. Like honey, honeycomb is edible and lasts longer in relatively cool, dark, and dry places. Moisture and contamination are things that you want to keep away from your honeycomb. Otherwise, it will last just as long as honey.
How Can You Tell If a Honey Is Bad?
Here are some ways to tell if honey is bad:
- If there are food particles within the honey that have similarly grown mold.
- If the honey (or food particles within) smells rotten or otherwise spoiled.
- If it has not been filtered adequately.
Can Honey Go Bad and Make You Sick?
Honey itself is unlikely to go bad. You are more likely to get sick if there are bacteria, mold, or yeasts within honey — typically growing on food particles already within it. In this case, you will develop the symptoms of the illnesses those bacteria have been known to cause. As noted, honey can cause botulism in infants, so this indeed is an instance of honey causing illness.
If your honey contains grayanotoxins from Azalea pontica and Rhododendron ponticum nectars, it can cause blood pressure and heart rhythm problems, as well as dizziness, nausea, seizures, and even death. This phenomenon is from the consumption of “Mad Honey” — a type of honey that is cultivated in Asia. It notably contains the nectars of Rhododendron plants — with toxins that can cause hallucinogenic effects. This is not a typical honey, however, so you will probably not encounter it (unless you go out of your way to find it).
Can Bacteria Grow in Honey?
Generally, bacteria can not grow in uncontaminated honey that is properly stored. This can change, though, if the honey has dust, dirt, pollen, or food particles within it. Bacteria can feed on these contaminants and multiply — and even faster if the honey is exposed to moisture.
Why Does Honey Turn Dark?
Honey typically turns dark if stored for long periods. This may also be caused by storing honey at higher than normal temperatures. Honey can vary in color naturally, depending on the source of the nectar and its mineral components. If left for long periods and/or at high temperatures, honey will usually darken.
How Do You Store Honey?
To store honey, the container it came in is usually just fine. Otherwise, use an airtight jar, bottle, or stainless steel container. It is important to find one that it actually leakproof and airtight. Here is one that I recommend found on Amazon.
Make sure the container is clean and uncontaminated by other foods, dirt, dust, or water. Pour the honey in, seal, and store in a cool (below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) or room temperature (50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) dry, dark, place.
It is not necessary to refrigerate your honey, but if you do, there may be whitish crystals that form on it. This is perfectly natural — heat or boil gently as needed. Keep your honey dry and uncontaminated from other foods, and generally, it will last a long time.
How Long Does Manuka Honey Last Once Opened?
Manuka honey is a rare type of honey used to treat digestive problems and certain types of skin diseases. As a type of honey, it does not expire if appropriately stored (away from heat, light, moisture, air, etc.). However, some manufacturers do recommend using Manuka honey within three years of opening.
Honey is one of those unique substances that is impossible to describe to someone who has not tried it. It can be used for a number of reasons, including as a sweetener, a topping, and even for medicinal purposes.
It’s especially useful to those who are living off the grid or don’t have access to refrigeration. Having access to such a versatile food without having to worry about it going bad is pretty awesome.
I hope this article has been as fun to read as it was to write. Thanks for visiting!
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.