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Does Honey go bad?

m
Michelle Nov 17, 2005 03:55 AM

I was cleaning out my cupboards and found some honey a friend bought for me in Portugal 5 years ago. It is in a hand-painted ceramic jar, sealed with wax, and has never been opened. Is the honey inside still safe to eat? If not, I'll just keep it sealed and use it as a decorative element since the jar is so pretty.

  1. t
    TerriL Nov 19, 2005 02:17 PM

    I always thought honey kept indefinitely, but I got some about 9 months ago at the SF Ferry Plaza. It was imported from France and had a 'use by' date of last month! It was pure honey, no additives, so I have no idea what this oculd have meant. I am simply pretending I don't see the sticker each time I use it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TerriL
      t
      TorahBoy Oct 6, 2010 02:36 AM

      Hi TerriL
      The only reason Honey has a use by date on it, is that the 'Nanny State' insists that ALL packaged foods have a use by date. In the UK, this can never be more than four years from the production date, so most UK, and European, honey has a 4year shelf life, by law.
      The high sugar content in honey makes it actually toxic to bacteria, so it should never actually 'go off' In fact, as some of the posts here mention, honey found in earthenware jars in Egyptian tombs has been found to be still edible!

    2. a
      AnneInMpls Nov 17, 2005 01:26 PM

      Actually, honey can go bad, in a sense - it can ferment if the moisture content is too high.

      Most commercial honey producers carefully monitor the water content of their honey, so it's rare for store-bought honey to ferment. But if the honey is highly crystalized, or if it contains fruit or nuts, it might become fermented. If so, it will be obvious from the appearance or smell.

      And honey from backyard hives might be more likely to ferment. I got some honey from a friend's bees last year. It was delicious, but very runny, before it got white bubbles/froth on the top and started to smell kinda like beer... But I can't bear to throw it away!

      So, my question: Is it safe to eat fermented honey?

      - Anne the would-be beekeeper (it's illegal in Mpls)

      1 Reply
      1. re: AnneInMpls
        w
        Will Owen Nov 17, 2005 01:43 PM

        It's called "mead"... :)

        Actually, most mead recipes nowadays are more like hard lemonade with fermented honey providing the alcohol, as well as some nice flavor. And no, it's not gonna hurt you: fermentation is one of the main natural processes used as a food-preservation strategy - grapes into wine, cabbage into sauerkraut, grain into beer. Whether it still tastes good is of course quite another matter...

      2. j
        Janet from Richmond Nov 17, 2005 08:13 AM

        Honey never goes bad. It was a Jeopardy question years ago as the answer to the one food product that never spoils.

        1. j
          JMF Nov 17, 2005 08:13 AM

          Honey doesn't go bad, or lose it's taste, or detiorate. It may crystalize after opening if some of the water evaporates. Honey is a natural preservative and antibiotic. It used to be put on wounds under bandages to help prevent infection and promote faster healing. I tasted a jar of noey that was from the late 1800's and it tasted fine. Actually great, better than any commercial honey today.

          1. k
            Karl S Nov 17, 2005 07:21 AM

            Honey can keep for millennia...literally (they've tasted some from mummy tombs).

            9 Replies
            1. re: Karl S
              p
              PZ Nov 17, 2005 08:05 AM

              How did it taste?

              1. re: PZ
                f
                FarFar Nov 17, 2005 08:37 AM

                Mummy Yummy ;>)

                1. re: FarFar
                  f
                  FarFar Nov 17, 2005 08:45 AM

                  or "Yummy, Mummy"

                2. re: PZ
                  k
                  Karl S Nov 17, 2005 10:20 AM

                  Fine.

                  1. re: Karl S
                    r
                    rworange Nov 17, 2005 12:06 PM

                    I think it has been established that 5 year old honey is fine to eat ... now onto 5000 year old honey.

                    You would make a great parent/boss, since you are able to give an answer that might satisfy most people ... and then there is me.

                    First, of all, did you try this mummy honey? Is it avaliable for sale online?

                    Second, I'll bet no one ever really ate the honey and only put it through some sort of chemical analysis. How nuts do you have to be to eat honey that's been sitting next to a dead person for that long.

                    Searching around on the web for a mention of anyone who actually ate the honey, I couldn't find one. However, I never got that connectiontion before for using mummies in advertising breakfast cereals like honey bunches of oats. Hmmm, maybe we've ALL been eating 5000 year old honey. That would explain some of those cereals.

                    Then again, perhaps people did actually eat the honey because I found out that people ate ground up mummies for medicinal purposes at one time. Link below, but a warning that it is, well, yucky to put it midly. This source is from a magazine that discusses "strange phenomena", but searching around there were more credible sources to back this up. Unfortunately those sources were even more hair raising.

                    Anyway, enjoy the 5 year old honey which will outsurvive you if you don't.

                    Link: http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:vB...

                    1. re: rworange
                      k
                      Karl S Nov 17, 2005 12:58 PM

                      Not yuckier than the ancient Roman practice of saving the cleansing scrapings from (living) bodies in the baths and elsewhere to consume. (Slave scrapes dirty sweat off patrician bodie; throws against floor edge; later collects it as a flavoring and medicinal delicacy).

                      1. re: Karl S
                        h
                        hobokeg Nov 18, 2005 04:39 AM

                        oh that's gross.

                      2. re: rworange
                        k
                        Karl S Nov 17, 2005 12:59 PM

                        Btw, the reason I remember that someone tasted it is because I was stunned they were allowed to.

                        1. re: Karl S
                          r
                          Ruth Lafler Nov 17, 2005 02:47 PM

                          I'm not surprised -- all the chemical analysis in the world is no substitute for the human tongue. Tests can tell you what's in it, but not what it tastes like, and no study of the honey would be complete without someone being able to describe the taste.

                3. c
                  coll Nov 17, 2005 05:20 AM

                  The only thing that happens when it's old is sometimes it crystallizes, but if you warm it in the microwave it becomes liquid again.

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