In theory, honey is considered to have an indefinite shelf life. There are five foods in nature that never spoil: honey, white wine, vinegar, solid sugar, and salt.
In 1913, archaeologists discovered honey dating back 3300 years in the pyramids of Egypt, and remarkably, it showed no signs of deterioration and remained edible. This exemplifies that genuinely mature natural honey, when stored for an extended period, remains consumable without any strict expiration date. However, due to food labeling regulations outlined in the Food Law, honey manufacturers typically specify a shelf life of 18 months to 2 years for their products. Over time, this has become an industry standard, and most honey is labeled with a shelf life of two years or 18 months.
An intriguing question arises: why do some beekeepers claim that the shelf life of honey is only one year? The answer is straightforward; they may be selling immature honey, and they are concerned that improper storage on the consumer’s end might lead to spoilage. The notion of honey never spoiling specifically refers to mature honey with a high moisture content and the ability to be adequately stored.
Honey naturally contains various sugar-tolerant yeasts. When the concentration of honey is low (generally below 40 on the Brix scale), and the water content exceeds 23%, yeast fermentation may occur, especially under suitable temperature conditions, such as in summer. This fermentation process can lead to the conversion of glucose and fructose in honey into ethanol (alcohol) and water, releasing carbon dioxide and producing numerous bubbles.
Honey has a slightly acidic nature, making glass or ceramic containers the preferred choice for long-term storage to prevent potential contamination from metals such as iron or lead. Even when using non-toxic plastic bottles for honey storage, it’s advisable not to store honey for extended periods, as the nutritional value may decrease over time.
Sealing the container with a lid is crucial to prevent exposure to humid air, thus avoiding fermentation. Store honey in a clean, cool, and well-ventilated area. For optimal preservation, storing honey in the refrigerator is recommended, with careful attention to preventing contamination.
In conclusion, while honey technically has an indefinite shelf life, understanding the factors that may lead to fermentation and spoilage is essential. Adhering to proper storage practices, such as using suitable containers, sealing them securely, and refrigerating when possible, ensures the preservation of honey’s quality and nutritional value over an extended period.