Shelf Life of Honey

A Brief Overview of the Shelf Life of Honey and Ways to Store It

With a really long shelf life, honey is highly valued for its culinary and medicinal uses. Here is a brief overview about the stability of honey.
Honey is one of those miracle foods, that has been used by humans since time immemorial. Today, honey is available in different types, and you may find it in almost every household. Perhaps, you have a bottle of honey in your house too. How long can you store honey, without getting spoiled? Let us find out.

What is the Shelf Life of Honey?

It is said that, honey in its purest form, can remain stable for a very long time, if sealed and stored properly. This is because, honey is sugar with very little moisture. This makes it difficult for microorganisms to thrive in it. As sugar can absorb moisture, it is important to seal and store honey properly. Being acidic in nature, honey does not form a favorable environment for microorganisms to survive. It is also said that the nectar stored by bees contain traces of an enzyme called glucose oxidase, which is found in the stomachs of these insects, This enzyme acts on the nectar, thereby breaking up into hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid. Presence of hydrogen peroxide could be a reason for the long shelf life of honey.

It is claimed that supermarket honey is highly processed, and lacks most of the properties of pure honey. However, like any other packed food product, honey bottles too come with a shelf life. Usually, the shelf life provided for honey is two years. What happens, if you do not use it during this period? You don't have to throw it away, if the honey is properly sealed and stored.

In fact, honey does not get spoiled, as bacteria and other microbes cannot thrive in it. This can be substantiated with the fact that, the honey stored in the Egyptian tombs were found to be edible, when discovered recently. However, its quality may change, if not stored properly. It may crystallize, and may also lose its flavor and aroma with time. Honey in sealed containers have a long shelf life, if stored in proper conditions. The shelf life of raw honey is said to be indefinite.

How to Store Honey

So the shelf life of honey can be really long, if properly processed, packaged, and stored. Therefore, it must be stored in glass or ceramic containers with tight lids, that do not allow moisture to get inside. Long-term exposure to moisture may lead to fermentation of honey, thereby degrading its quality. Another important factor in honey storage is temperature.

The optimum temperature range for storing processed honey is 64 to 75°F, and in case of unprocessed type, it is 50°F. Both processed and unprocessed honey can be stored at a temperature of 30 to 32°F. While temperature variations may not affect the shelf life, heat exposure must be avoided. However, after some time, honey tends to crystallize, and change to a darker color. These crystals can be dissolved by keeping the honey bottle in warm water.

To summarize, shelf life of honey is indefinite. It has to be stored properly, so as to avoid degradation. Store these bottles away from direct sunlight and heat, to enjoy the goodness of honey. Ensure that you close the lid tightly, every time, you use it. The shelf life, as given by the manufacturers are only for practical purposes.
Bee collects nectar
collecting nectar
fly feeding on nectar