If stored properly, high quality, raw, manuka honey does not go bad.
Honey has a very low moisture content, and has acidic enzymes which prevent bacteria or mold from growing.
It's also thick and not easy for oxygen to penetrate.
If you keep your manuka honey out of sunlight, do not expose it to direct heat, and it has not been exposed to water or any foreign moisture such as saliva, it will keep for many years.
The oldest honey in the world is 3,000 years old, found in an Egyptian tome, and is still edible due to it being preserved properly.
Raw, unadulterated honey can keep for thousands of years.
To understand this, it helps to understand how honey is made.
Honeybees collect nectar from flowering plants.
This nectar is brought back to the hive and undergoes a chemical transition whereby bees produce a liquid and deposit it into the honeycomb.
Bees "fan" the hive with their wings, and this causes water content in the honey to evaporate.
Once the water content is low (below 20%), the bees recognise the honey is thick enough to be stored.
They seal off each section of the honeycomb with beeswax, and this acts like a sealed jar, preventing any more oxygen or moisture from getting in.
This is how bees store honey for the winter, without the honey spoiling.
Will Manuka Honey Expire?
As we've explained above, mother nature is very clever.
If you store your honey properly, it will not expire.
Bees know how to produce honey that is self-preservative.
How is this possible?
- Honey has a very low moisture content. Bees have figured out honey will go bad if it has too much water and mold and bacteria can grow. That is why they evaporate the honey down to a low water content before sealing it.
- Honey is acidic. It is very difficult for bacteria to grow in acidic environments. The main acid in manuka honey is gluconic acid, which makes the pH level difficult for any type of microbes to grow.
- One of the hallmark features of manuka honey is its high level of MGO, an antibacterial compound. This makes it impossible for bacteria to live in and compromise a honey. A jar of manuka honey is the last place bacteria would want to live!
Why does my manuka honey have an expiration date?
Manuka honey must have a "use-by" date to give consumers guidance on when it is best to use the product.
However, the product does not expire.
You will notice your manuka honey probably has a "use by" or "best before" date of around 3-5 years.
The main reason for this is manuka honey's MGO levels decline over time.
Therefore, if you want to enjoy the benefits of manuka honey that you probably purchased it for, such as the antimicrobial action it is famous for, you would want to consume it as early as possible.
However, this does not mean that the honey is useless as MGO levels decline.
It's still extremely healthy, and will be just as delicious!
Is It possible for Manuka Honey To Go bad?
If you have a sealed jar of manuka honey, away from sunlight and stored in a cool, dark area, it's very unlikely this honey will go bad.
However, there are ways honey can go bad.
Using dirty spoons/scoops
Honey is delicious in simple spoonfuls out of the jar, but if you take a spoonful, and cannot resist dipping that spoon straight back in for second spoonful, you will contaminate the honey with your sailva.
Once this is done, you will have introduced foreign moisture and enzymes into the honey and it will no longer be pure.
In this case, the honey will possibly ferment or grow mold over time.
Always use fresh and clean spoons!
Honey is very sensitive to sunlight and heat.
Storing honey in direct sunlight or in a high temperature environment will damage enzymes in the honey and cause it to spoil.
Also storing honey in inappropriate packaging, such as low quality plastic, or unclean containers will also cause it to spoil.
Honey is best stored at room temperature or cooler, and in glass or stainless steel.
Honey that is not pure or genuine
Sometimes companies add things to their honey to adjust the colour or flavour.
Sometimes honey can even be compromised during the honey-making process, by feeding bees things like sugar or supplements, which obviously adulterates the honey and it is no longer pure.
This changes the enzymatic makeup of the honey and can make it less suitable for long term storage.
If you plan on storing your honey for an extended time, always buy high-graded UMF honey, raw and organic.
Fermentation and mold
If your honey smells fermented (like yeast) or has visible mold, it means the honey was not produced properly, or it has been exposed to water or moisture, or has been sitting in high temperatures.
This can happen if you do not seal your honey properly after opening, or live in a very humid environment (usually both).
Is Crystallized honey safe to eat?
Yes, crystallized or granular honey is perfectly safe!
In fact, in some ways it's an indication of a higher quality honey.
Processed, pasteurized and creamed honeys generally don't crystallize.
These honeys are processed to have a uniform colour and texture, almost like homogenized milk.
However, raw honey does not go through this process and therefore in certain conditions, it's normal for the sugars and water to separate.
However, this does not mean the honey is spoiled, just that it has reacted to the temperature (similar to how coconut oil hardens in winter and goes to liquid form in summer).
If you would like to decrystallize your honey, warm it very gently in a warm water bath. This is best done with a glass jar.
If the jar is plastic, you can simply warm it by holding it between your palms for a few minutes, or wrapping it in a warm towel.
How To Store Your manuka honey so it doesn't go bad
Storing manuka honey is not difficult.
It is best stored at room temperature rather than in the fridge.
Always make sure you close the jar tightly to avoid any moisture or contaminants getting in.
We generally store ours on the counter, but away from a window where it does not get any sunlight.
Sometimes in the summer months, we can store it on the bottom shelf of the pantry so it's a bit cooler.
If you plan on keeping honey for a long time, glass jars are much better than plastic jars.
However, if you plan to consume within a year, plastic is fine too.