Did Ya Know?

Does Honey Ever Go Bad?

You’re looking for something in your cupboards and come across an old container of honey. It’s looking a little cloudy and clumpy, but it’s still sealed tight. Should you throw it away? Even if it’s been years, honey is actually one of the only foods that essentially lasts forever. Why?

There are two reasons why honey lasts so long. The first is that it’s very acidic, which inactivates any bacteria that try to find a home. With less acidic foods, bacteria can thrive and stay active, so when you eat the food, it makes you sick. That doesn’t happen with honey. The second reason is its naturally-low moisture content. This is interesting since honey comes from nectar, which is mostly water. How does nectar become honey and lose most of its moisture? Bees.

Bees collect nectar from flowers and store it in an area of their body called a “honey stomach.” They then fly back to their hives to begin the honey-making process by vomiting up (yes, it’s gross) the nectar into combs. Other bees come in to finish the job by eating the nectar to mix it with their special stomach enzymes, and then throwing it up again. Their constant wing-flapping actually dries up most of the water, too, so by the end of the honey-making, the substance is just 17% water.

Honey’s acidity and low water content means it can last forever, but only if it isn’t exposed to water. That means it should always be fully sealed. Crystallization, which is when the honey becomes clumpy, is natural and not dangerous. If it’s annoying, you can get the honey back to its smooth state by heating it up in a microwave or on the stove top. You can also put the sealed container in a bowl of warm water and it should become easier to pour.