Can honey go off? Archaeologists found honey in the tombs of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, claiming it was sealed in such a way that it wouldn’t go off, preserved over hundred of years and good enough to eat. So they said. But as honey experts with science to back us up, honey most certainly can go off.
This misconception comes as honey does actually last a very long time - just not forever. People often think that because their honey has stayed in the cupboard for a couple of years it is still just as good as when they first bought it. At The Scottish Bee company we say that our honey lasts around 3 years, which is fairly long time. This is down to the sugar content which is incredibly high - around 75%, and this prevents many types of bacteria and harmful microbes growing. Honey is also incredibly dense, meaning that oxygen has a tough time penetrating and growing these harmful bacteria. Therefore there is an expiry date, and this can be sped up by several factors. Firstly, if it is not stored in a dry cool place, or if the lid has been left off.
Often one of the questions we get asked is how do you know when honey has gone off? Warming any food speeds up the growth rate of bacteria (hence why most fresh foods are kept in the fridge to last longer), and leaving them exposed to the air means they are also exposed to any microbes in the air which can contaminate the honey.
This is providing the honey you are using in pure and not made up of sugar syrups - check the back of the jar. If there is anything other than honey as an ingredient, it will not react on the same way as pure honey.
How can honey go bad?
Often people mistake crystallisation - a common, natural and entirely normal occurrence in honey - and perfectly safe. It has a grainier texture and can be reversed by warming the honey. We have both a blog and a video to show you more detail.
Honey that is going off tenses to get darker and become less flavoursome - the opposite of crystallisation which tends to go whiter. Honey going off has usually been in the cupboard for several years. If in doubt - chuck away, and buy some more!