Honey is almost certainly a wonderful food that has been consumed for millennia by man. However, despite being a tremendously common natural food, it is also a food whose conservation at home can cause us some doubts, especially as regards proper preservation. And that can lead us to ask the following question, especially when we observe that it has crystallized: Does honey expire? Does it have an expiry date?
As you probably know, honey is a natural product produced by bees from the nectar they obtain from flowers, as well as from the secretions of living parts of plants. They can also obtain it from excretions of plant-sucking insects.
It has been consumed for a very long time now. In fact, while bees have survived on our planet for more than 40 million years, cave paintings have been found in the Cueva de la Araña (Valencia), dating from 7,000 years BC, showing a man collecting honey.
In other words, the honeys are in charge of collecting the nectar, transforming it and combining it with an enzyme found in the saliva of the clams. Later, it is stored in panels, where it matures.
Does honey expire? Does it have an expiration date?
It is very common for us to ask ourselves this question, since in many houses it tends to be tremendously common to have a jar of bee honey in the closet or pantry, stored for a long time, and which has not been completely consumed, especially since the most usual thing is to use some of it for breakfast or for a snack and keep it. In this way, a jar of honey that we acquired yesterday can be kept in the pantry for long months.
Therefore, at this point, it is normal to ask the following question: does bee honey have an expiry date? Does it expire, or can we always consume it safely, even if months have passed since we first opened the container?
If you are concerned about this issue you should be absolutely calm. Why? Very simple: bee honey has no expiry date, which means that it never expires, regardless of the type of honey.
This is due to its high sugar content and acidity, which makes it extremely difficult for many microorganisms to survive in it. The same is true, for example, of other foods such as jams and preserves, which although they have a preferential date for consumption, do not tend to expire either.
The sugar present in honey makes it capable of absorbing moisture with some ease, so that in reality there are few – or no – microorganisms that are able to survive in this environment, so they never break down the honey.
We also find the level of acidity present in honey, which has a similar effect to that of sugar, making it difficult not only for the development but also for the very survival of the different microorganisms that could break it down.
Finally, we must mention two compounds resulting from the production of nectar in honey by bees: hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid, which prevent precisely the appearance of microorganisms in it.
And why does honey crystallize? Does that mean it’s spoiled or bad?
If at some point you have thrown away a jar of honey because it has crystallized, thinking that it was bad or damaged, the truth is that you have made a mistake. It is, in fact, a completely normal and natural state. That is, it is normal that after some time the honey crystallizes, which means that it has gone from a natural liquid state to a rather pasty state.
This is due to the high content of sugars found in honey, especially glucose, which tends to form a kind of supersaturated solution, so that there is a greater amount of dissolved glucose compared to what may be in liquid form. Thus, small crystals are formed that will end up attracting other crystals around them, becoming doughy.
When this happens, it is equally normal that the honey acquires a lighter shade than the one it used to have. This is because glucose, which was previously surrounded by several molecules of water in its liquid state, has become attached to just one.