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Does honey go bad?


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#1 Transdecimal

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Posted 6 June 2009 - 01:34 AM

I was looking for the eat-by date on a year-old jar of honey and I noticed it said 2012.

I got to thinking, does honey actually go off? I mean, beehives aren't exactly hygienic or even refrigerated, so how does the honey keep fresh inside them?

Will old honey go moldy or whatever?
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#2 iNow

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Posted 6 June 2009 - 02:05 AM

Generally, no. Honey is pretty awesome, and won't go bad if it's stored properly.

More here: http://www.newton.de...01/gen01338.htm



The one exception is, once you've opened and regularly eaten the honey, sometimes it gets too dry and it will crystallize. It doesn't spoil, per se, but it's not the same viscous gooey delicious self after that happens.

Either way, honey spoils not.


http://www.beesource...and-properties/

By far, the largest portion of the dry matter in honey consists of the sugars. This very concentrated solution of several sugars results in the characteristic physical properties of honey - high viscosity, “stickiness,” high density, granulation tendencies, tendency to absorb moisture from the air, and immunity from some types of spoilage.

<...>

Dextrose, a major sugar in honey, can spontaneously crystallize from any honeys in the form of its monohydrate. This sometimes occurs when the moisture level in honey is allowed to drop below a certain level.

<...>

If unheated honey is allowed to granulate naturally, several difficulties may arise. The texture may be fine and smooth or granular and objectionable to the consumer. Furthermore, a granulated honey becomes more susceptible to spoilage by fermentation, caused by natural yeast found in all honeys and apiaries. Quality damage from poor texture and fermented flavors usually is far greater than any caused by the heat needed to eliminate these problems.

<...>

Fermentation. - Fermentation of honey is caused by the action of sugar-tolerant yeasts upon the sugars dextrose and levulose, resulting in the formation of ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. The alcohol in the presence of oxygen then may be broken down into acetic acid and water. As a result, honey that has fermented may taste sour.

The yeasts responsible for fermentation occur naturally in honey, in that they can germinate and grow at much higher sugar concentrations than other yeasts, and, therefore, are called “osmophilic.” Even so there are upper limits of sugar concentration beyond which these yeasts will not grow. Thus, the water content of a honey is one of the factors concerned in spoilage by fermentation. The others are extent of contamination by yeast spores (yeast count) and temperature of storage.

Honey with less than 17.1 percent water will not ferment in a year, irrespective of the yeast count. Between 17.1 and 18 percent moisture, honey with 1,000 yeast spores or less per gram will be safe for a year. When moisture is between 18.1 and 19 percent, not more than 10 yeast spores per gram can be present for safe storage. Above 19 percent water, honey can be expected to ferment even with only one spore per gram of honey, a level so low as to be very rare.

When honey granulates, the resulting increased moisture content of the liquid part is favorable for fermentation. Honey with a high moisture content will not ferment below 50ºF or above about 80º. Honey even of relatively low water content will ferment at 60º. Storing at temperatures over 80º to avoid fermentation is not practical as it will damage honey.


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#3 Transdecimal

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Posted 6 June 2009 - 02:12 AM

Sweet! :D

I just read the wiki article too and found out that honey is basically bee vomit... "In the hive the bees use their "honey stomachs" to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested."
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#4 iNow

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Posted 6 June 2009 - 02:23 AM

Yep. Those nice little bees pre-digest it for us. How nice of them, eh?

As an insulin-dependent diabetic, honey is probably my absolute favorite treatment for low blood sugar. When I've not eaten enough food to counteract the insulin I've injected (or, if maybe I exercised too hard that day), the blood sugar gets too low and more sugar/food must be ingested. Honey is amazing for this because it is super dense in sugar, it is predigested so gets into my system really really quickly, and the energy it gives lasts for a really long time (as opposed to eating something like a candy bar, where I get a surge of processed sugars which wears off quickly).

Honey is a food of the gods! :cool:
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#5 Bignose

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Posted 7 June 2009 - 01:44 AM

I didn't look for a source for this or anything, but I seem to recall a few years back that they opened jars of honey that were buried in the tombs of various Egyptian leaders and that the honey was just as good as day one. The interest there was to try to figure out what flowers the bees were visiting back in the day, and they could still do it because the honey was still fresh.
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#6 Psycho

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Posted 7 June 2009 - 02:36 AM

I didn't look for a source for this or anything, but I seem to recall a few years back that they opened jars of honey that were buried in the tombs of various Egyptian leaders and that the honey was just as good as day one. The interest there was to try to figure out what flowers the bees were visiting back in the day, and they could still do it because the honey was still fresh.

I wonder how much one of them would go for at auction, especailly considering you can still eat it, quite the delicacy.

Another factor that stops honey going off is its antibacterial properties that are currently being researched to see if they can be used against antibiotic resistant bacteria on wounds, i'm sure this would help preserve them if originally they weren't encased in a sterile environment.
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#7 JohnB

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 10:45 AM

I didn't look for a source for this or anything, but I seem to recall a few years back that they opened jars of honey that were buried in the tombs of various Egyptian leaders and that the honey was just as good as day one.


Honey has been found in a few tombs, the earliest discovery was in 1905. The tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu was opened by Theodore Davis. The honey was found to be "nearly liquid" and still retained it's scent. Link here. (KV 46 is unusual as it is a non royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings.)

The honey is usually starting to crystalise, but is believed still edible. AFAIK nobody has been game to try. (The honey itself is probably not harmful to your health, but the subsequent lynching by enraged Egyptologists would be.)
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#8 djdhays

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 01:02 PM

"I just read the wiki article too and found out that honey is basically bee vomit... 'In the hive the bees use their "honey stomachs ...'"


If that grosses you out, don't look very far into milk.


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#9 CaptainPanic

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 01:52 PM

If the honey crystallizes, you can just heat it up (place the pot into luke warm water). The crystals will melt/dissolve again. I usually eat honey well before it reaches this stage, and if it does reach it, I actually like the taste of the crystals, so I don't ever heat it... so I am not sure what temperature you need.

I've never heard of honey going bad, and I think the "best before" or "eat by" date is just there to avoid lawsuits...

Sugar is a natural preservative, like salt.
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#10 l.boyd

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 02:08 PM

Yeah, from what I've read, honey can keep for quite a long time. When I was younger, my mom bought a jar of honey that we kind of just forgot about in the cupboard. Six to 7 years later, I tasted it and it still tasted the same. No molds and all. It's got to do with the high sugar content, if I'm not mistaken.
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#11 Moontanman

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 07:15 PM

My favorite type of honey is the black honey that comes from wild bees, it has a bitter sweet flavor that is hard to beat. It turns black due to being in the hive for many years...
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#12 John Cuthber

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 08:13 PM

Honey is fine unless you are really unlucky and very young.
"Honey is the only known dietary reservoir of C. botulinum spores linked to infant botulism"
from
http://en.wikipedia....Infant_botulism
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#13 Santalum

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 01:40 AM

I was looking for the eat-by date on a year-old jar of honey and I noticed it said 2012.

I got to thinking, does honey actually go off? I mean, beehives aren't exactly hygienic or even refrigerated, so how does the honey keep fresh inside them?

Will old honey go moldy or whatever?



For that matter jam generally does not spoil either, and they do not contain any preservatives.

Jam and honey do not spoil probably for similar reasons that salted meat does not spoil, i.e. through an osmotic environment that is hostile to most microbes.

Although honey may well also contain anti-microbial agents - it is sometimes used as an antimicrobial 'ointment' for persistent bed sores and ulcers etc.
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#14 ewmon

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 05:37 AM

Jam and honey do not spoil probably for similar reasons that salted meat does not spoil, i.e. through an osmotic environment that is hostile to most microbes.

If by "osmotic environment" you mean that most of the water contained in honey interacts with the sugars, then yes, that's what makes honey hostile to most microbes — very little free water in which to thrive.
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#15 Santalum

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 01:18 PM

If by "osmotic environment" you mean that most of the water contained in honey interacts with the sugars, then yes, that's what makes honey hostile to most microbes — very little free water in which to thrive.


Another way of stating the fact.
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