Does Honey Go Bad or Expire?

Does Honey Go Bad or Expire?

Executive Summary:

  • Some of the benefits of raw honey can become compromised due to high heat processing. Allowing the bees to naturally dehydrate the honey themselves ensures both shelf stability and the preservation of beneficial compounds. 
  • The best-by date on honey products does not necessarily mean it will spoil or expire on that date — it mostly refers to the quality of the honey being best before that date. Manuka honey has a shelf life of about five years, but can last even longer with proper storage.
  • If your honey has hardened or crystallized, that’s not a sign of expiration, but instead a natural process that raw honey can go through, especially in colder climates. You can easily soften honey with a warm water bath.

 

Can Honey Expire?

While virtually all honey products will have a suggested best-before date, this generally speaks to quality. In fact, most honey products are still safe to consume past this time. 

Composition of Honey

Honey is composed of approximately 80% natural sugars and no more than 18% water. This high sugar concentration creates an osmotic pressure that inhibits microbial growth by drawing water out of bacterial cells, preventing their proliferation.

Honey’s pH ranges from 3.4 to 6.1, making it quite acidic. The primary acid in honey, gluconic acid, is produced by the enzyme glucose oxidase during the ripening of nectar. This acidic environment, along with the presence of hydrogen peroxide, contributes to honey’s natural ability to inhibit microbial growth.

How Does It Affect the Expiration of Honey?

The simple truth behind honey products and their expiration date depends on whether or not they are raw or processed.

You can expect raw honey’s beneficial nutrients to maintain (or increase) during its shelf life. After five years (which is often the best-before date), the same levels cannot be guaranteed. 

In contrast, processed honey is usually pasteurized for the purposes of extending shelf life and making for a uniform and consistent commercial product. So, what does this all means?

Is that plastic bottle of grocery store honey that’s been in the cupboard for years still good? And does raw honey last as long as processed honey? Let's find out.

 

Does Honey Spoil? Insights on Honey's Expiry

As long as your honey is stored correctly, it shouldn’t spoil. 

Generally, most honey products you’ll buy will have a “best-by," "best-before," or “use-by” date. Often, this date is a reflection of quality and doesn’t indicate that honey will actually spoil, go bad, or be unsafe to consume when that date passes — so long as it was stored properly and hasn’t been contaminated. 

When it comes to our honey here at Manukora, there’s a little more to the "best-by" date you’ll see on our jars. 

The key nutrients will maintain (or even get higher) during the five-year shelf life. While our honey won’t simply expire once the date passes, after five years, we can not guarantee the potency. These compounds include MGO (Methylglyoxal), DHA, leptosperin, and other markers used by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to ensure authenticity. 

To reap the most benefit from your Manuka, we suggest eating it before the best-by date on the container. Our Manuka has a suggested shelf life of around five years — however, we feel that finishing our rich and delicious honey within that timeframe won’t necessarily be an issue. 

 

Why Does My Honey Crystallize?

A common misconception is that when honey hardens or crystallizes, it’s spoiled or has expired.

All raw honey is sensitive to temperature (and its environment). If your honey has taken the form of small, glistening crystals, it’s not bad, expired, or spoiled, it’s just doing what raw honey does — crystallizing. 

A quick change in location or shift in the thermostat should prevent this from happening again. You can also check out our guide here on how to soften that hardened honey

 

Raw Honey Vs. Processed Honey: What’s The Shelf Life?

The shelf life of honey depends on whether it is raw or processed (pasteurized). Raw honey is not subjected to high heat, preserving its natural enzymes, vitamins, and antioxidants. This lack of pasteurization means raw honey retains a higher level of these beneficial nutrients compared to processed honey.

Nutrient Sensitivity to Heat

A significant factor in honey’s appeal is its naturally beneficial nutrients that support overall wellness. However, these nutrients are sensitive to heat. When honey undergoes the heating and cooling processes required for pasteurization, many of these nutrients are reduced.

Pasteurization and Uniformity

Pasteurization extends honey’s shelf life and provides a uniform color and texture, which is generally expected in commercial products. Processed honey, therefore, tends to have a consistent appearance and does not harden or soften easily, making it more stable on store shelves.

Natural Crystallization of Raw Honey

Raw honey tends to harden or soften depending on the temperature of its storage environment. It is natural for raw honey to crystallize in colder conditions. This crystallization is not a sign of spoilage but a natural process that can be reversed by gently warming the honey.

Dehydration Process

Before honey is honey, it contains a significant amount of water. Bees naturally dehydrate honey to prevent spoilage. This natural dehydration process can be time-consuming, which is why many commercial producers use high heat to dehydrate honey quickly, allowing for more rapid production.

Manukora’s Natural Approach

At Manukora, we let our bees work at their own pace to naturally dehydrate the honey. This traditional method ensures the preservation of honey’s natural qualities, although it takes more time compared to commercial processing methods.

Proper Storage Tips: How Long is Honey Good For?

Storage Conditions for Raw Honey

  • Room Temperature: Raw Mānuka honey should be kept at room temperature, around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps maintain its texture.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Store raw Mānuka honey away from direct sunlight. Prolonged exposure to heat and light can affect its beneficial nutrients.
  • Moisture Control: Keep honey in a dry place. Ensure the lid is tightly sealed to prevent moisture ingress.

Indicators of Spoiled Honey

  • Visible Mold: Mold growth in honey is a sign of spoilage.
  • Fermented Smell: A sour or fermented smell indicates that the honey may have been improperly stored.

Preventing Contamination

  • Use Clean Utensils: Always use a clean spoon to scoop honey out of the jar. Avoid double-dipping to prevent contaminants.

Storage Guidelines for Processed Honey

  • Room Temperature and Moisture Control: Processed honey should be stored at room temperature, in a dry place, and away from direct sunlight.
  • Refrigeration Effects: Processed honey will become thicker if kept in the fridge or freezer. While it generally won’t crystallize, it's best to keep it out of direct sunlight to maintain its quality. 

Why We Love Raw Manuka Honey

At Manukora, we take pride in our ethically-produced, all-natural, raw Manuka honey. Even if store-bought honey is your go-to, you may change your mind after your first taste of our rich and creamy Manuka honey. 

Traditional raw honey is very different from processed honey, and raw Manuka honey is even more unique. 

Our Manuka honey derives from a remote part of New Zealand called “The Golden Triangle.” This small section of forest is home to the Manuka tea tree or Leptospermum scoparium. These tea trees only blossom for two to six weeks of the year, meaning the bees only have a short window of time to collect the necessary resources to make Manuka honey. In fact, all of this is what makes Manuka honey a precious and rare gift. 

One of the most distinguishing factors of Manuka honey is MGO (Methylglyoxal). Methylglyoxal possesses antibacterial properties that can provide numerous benefits beyond what other types of raw honey can provide.

All Manuka honey must have this nutrient to be considered authentic, but the levels can vary — the higher the MGO levels, the more flavorful and potent the honey is! 

Vigorously Tested

Each Manukora honey product is sent to third-party testing sites to determine the strength of our honey. The MGO rating in Manuka honey can vary. The lowest you can get on our site is 200+ MGO Manuka, which we recommend for general wellness support and as a natural source of energy and antioxidants. The highest we have is our MGO 1123+ Manuka, which offers exceptionally high levels of unique bioactive nutrients for a sensory experience and wellness potency like no other.

At Manukora, we pride ourselves on our unique approach to honey production. From our MGO 850 10-Pack Stick Packets for convenient, on-the-go energy to our comprehensive Manuka Honey FAQs that help educate our customers on the benefits and uses of Manuka honey, we are committed to excellence.

Interested in learning more about the unique taste of Manuka honey? Our blog provides insights into its distinct flavor profile. Plus, our dedication to sustainability extends beyond our products.

We also offer guidance on how to get rid of bees without killing them, ensuring a harmonious balance with nature. Lastly, explore the New Zealand landscape and its influence on Manuka honey to understand the integral role our environment plays in creating our quality products.

The Rawest Form of Honey

Our Manuka honey is packaged in its rawest form and ethically produced by our loving beekeepers. We give our bees the freedom to feast on the Manuka tea trees as they please, dehydrate the honey at their own pace, and when we harvest their sweet nectar, we leave plenty in the frames to get them through the winter.

 

The Bottom Line 

You’ll have around five years to enjoy your Manukora honey with a guarantee of its most valuable nutrients; however, we’re sure the jar will be empty long before then. As long as you store your Manuka correctly (and really, any other honey), you generally won’t have to worry about it spoiling before you can enjoy it. 

If your honey does appear moldy or smells spoiled or fermented, chances are it was exposed to water, contaminants, or direct sunlight. Don’t consume any honey that doesn’t smell as deliciously sweet as when you first popped the lid. 

Looking for more? Check out our blog for more information about Manuka honey and the potential benefits of this healthy indulgence.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Honey Expiry

Does honey go bad?

Honey doesn't spoil under normal conditions. It might crystallize or change its color over time, but it remains safe to consume.

Does honey expire?

The expiry date on honey mainly signifies its peak quality. Past that date, it may lose some of its flavor or beneficial nutrients, but it won't be harmful to consume.

How long does honey last?

Properly stored, honey can last for many years, even beyond its "best by" date.

How long is honey good for?

Honey is typically good for years when stored correctly, away from direct sunlight and moisture.

 

Sources:

Health Benefits of Honey and How to Use It | Cleveland Clinic 

To what temperature does honey have to be heated to destroy the health benefits for humans? | Beehealthextension

Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview | PMC

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