Honey is one of the first sweeteners used by humans. Some archeologists found jars of honey in ancient Egyptian tombs and they have been preserved for thousands of years without decaying.
Along with honey’s long-lasting health properties, this information has led many people to believe that honey never expires. Is that really true or just a myth? Keep reading to find out if honey goes bad!
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Does Honey Go Bad?
Natural honey preserved using the correct methods will never expire. The jars of honey discovered in tombs are not a myth – this is, in fact, proof that properly stored honey can never go bad. The never-ending life of honey is based on its biological composition.
More specifically, bacteria require moisture (water particles) to thrive; while honey does contain some water particles, these bind with sugars, so there is no environment that can support a growing organism. In order to have a long lifespan, honey must be properly sealed.
However, there are several reasons that cause honey to go bad:
When we buy honey from the supermarket, all jars have an expiration date. This is a prerequisite for the manufacturer and retailer – not exactly a must for the end consumer.
All types of honey go through a set of changes as time passes. Over time, honey tends to get darker and crystalize, both of these processes showing that your honey is actually natural.
Crystallized honey is not unhealthy. In fact, it shows that it is not pasteurized, which is a good sign.
Crystals form because of the binding between pollen and natural sugars and, if you don’t enjoy crystallized honey, you can simply put your honey jar in a bowl with warm water for some time. This doesn’t mean, however, that the honey is bad – it just follows a natural process.
If you are wondering how long it takes honey to go bad, there’s no definite answer. If you properly store it, it will never decay.
However, it can start going bad as soon as the moisture level increases. It can also go bad very quickly if you use a dirty spoon or knife to take honey out. The leftover food particles favor bacteria growth.
In some cases, honey can ferment. If it is exposed to moisture, such as leaving the jar opened, honey can absorb more water from the environment.
This leads to a favorable growing environment for some types of yeasts that produce alcohol, leading to fermentation. In this case, honey can change its smell and taste, and you will also be able to notice some foam.
Do All Honey Types Decay the Same?
There are different types of honey; however, all of these behave the same way. All that really matters is that the honey is properly stored and is natural. A quick crystallization process means that your honey is not processed, which is an excellent thing.
What Happens If You Eat Spoiled Honey?
Spoiled honey can refer to either spots of mold formed because you used a dirty spoon or knife in the jar or, alternatively, the honey ferments.
The mold is a natural process – think about leaving moldy cheese or other food products. The natural properties of the honey will prevent the mold from contaminating the rest of the jar, but these spots can appear on top if you left pieces of food there. It is not recommended to eat any moldy foods for health reasons.
In the case of fermented honey, the yeasts will result in a small amount of alcohol and gas (carbon dioxide). Bacterial yeasts can be ingested while eating fermented (spoiled) honey.
This does not have any symptoms or dangerous repercussions for people with a healthy immune system. However, if they are consumed by people with weakened immunity, the yeasts could lead the way to other, more serious infections.
How to Preserve Honey
Sections above focused thoroughly on the fact that properly stored honey will not go bad, but what does this mean? First of all, moisture is the main culprit for spoilage, so here’s how you can keep your honey jar away from excess water:
- Store your honey in an airtight jar or container; the airtight lid is very important to limit access to the water in the environment.
- Place honey only in cool and dry areas; it should be stored below 10 degrees C (50F), but up to 20C (70F) is also fine; if you keep honey in the fridge, keep in mind that it can lead to quicker crystallization.
- If you want to return crystallized honey to a liquid form, place the container in warm water, without exposing the honey inside. Do not boil or overheat honey because it will affect its color and taste.
- Do not use any contaminated utensils with your honey because these allow yeasts, molds, and bacteria to grow.
Health Benefits of Honey
Storing honey using appropriate methods and enjoying fresh, natural honey comes with numerous health benefits. It has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties, such as:
- The high content of antioxidants has been linked to a reduced risk of stroke, heart attack, and cancer;
- Honey can lower high blood pressure;
- It may improve cholesterol levels by lowering bad LDL levels while raising good HDL cholesterol;
- Honey can decrease the level of triglycerides, decreasing the risk of heart disease
- When applied topically, honey has numerous benefits; it has been used to heal injuries and wounds since ancient Egypt;
- Honey helps with healing upper respiratory infections and it is used as a cough suppressant;
But, Is Honey Suitable for Everyone?
While honey is packed with health benefits, it is not for everyone.
You should never give honey to babies under 1 year old because it can lead to a rare, but very severe condition known as infant botulism.
This is the result of exposing the baby to Clostridium botulinum spores that multiply in the baby’s intestines, releasing dangerous toxins.
In addition to this, some people are allergic or sensitive to honey or, most commonly, bee pollen. These pollen allergies can lead to serious or even deadly reactions. Symptoms of a honey allergy include:
- Asthmatic symptoms
- Excessive perspiration
Interesting Facts about Honey
Did you know that honey is made by bees? Well, you are partially right. There are also Mexican honey wasps that produce honey. However, wasp honey can be poisonous because of the flowers they choose.
About one-third of all the food eaten by Americans is derived from bees’ activity. This is because they pollinate approximately $20 billion worth of American crops per year. As a result, bees are extremely important for the ecosystem.
Unfortunately, over the last 15 years, an event started to occur. Known as “colony collapse disorder”, many bee colonies have started to simply disappear. Many billions of bees leave their hives and never go back. This phenomenon is worldwide, there are no known causes for this behavior. Up to 90% of bees simply left in some regions.
To Sum Up
Honey is one of the wonders that nature crafted to perfection. Known as one of the few foods that never decay, make sure you buy natural honey and store it in a dry, cool place. However, in certain circumstances, honey can go bad.
This is because it can be contaminated by bacteria, molds, and fungi. Due to the biological makeup of honey, these will not reproduce in high numbers, so they do not pose any significant health risks.
However, honey should not be given to babies under 1 year old, while some people might be allergic to honey.