Why Does Honey Never Go Bad?

Arwin Neil Baichoo
Honey, Credit: unsplash.com/Arwin Neil Baichoo

Along with jewelry and wine, royal tombs in ancient Egypt also had jars of honey. They included the honey because they thought it would make their trip to the afterlife more pleasant. Even though the graves were found 3,000 years later, the honey in them was still tasty.

Table of Contents

How is it that honey never goes bad?

Germs and bacteria can’t live in honey because it kills them. Honey is a sugar with a low amount of water and an acidic pH. This makes a place where bacteria can’t live and grow. Other foods, like molasses, also fit this description. They can be kept for a long time, but not forever. What makes honey so unique? The answer is both horrible and interesting.


Bees “process” honey by eating nectar, then spitting it back up into honeycombs. In their stomachs, the nectar is broken down into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide.


Does hydrogen peroxide ring a bell? It is a natural antibiotic that can be bought at drugstores. It can be used to heal a wide range of wounds and illnesses. In other words, honey is naturally resistant to germs, and the hydrogen peroxide in it keeps away any microbes that try to get in.


Honey has been used as a medicine for thousands of years because of the amazing chemicals it contains. It was made into ointments and used to treat burns and other wounds. Even the ancient Egyptians, who put honey in their tombs, used it a lot.

How does honey change with time?

Honey can be eaten for years or even decades. But since it comes from nature, it will change over time. Honey can become darker in color or thicker in consistency. The way it tastes can also change.


The fact that honey changes is a good sign. It shows that your honey is of good quality and hasn’t been heated. Honey is heated to make it pasteurized. This process kills the yeasts that are already there. It keeps the honey smoother for a longer time. This may also get rid of some of the comb’s natural dirt, but it isn’t necessary for food safety.

Why does honey in the store have a best-by date when it never goes bad?

Dates on honey made for sale are more of a reminder for businesses than anything else. They serve as a reminder to put newer, fresher items on the shelves. Most of the honey will be gone long before then. But even if you buy a bottle with only a few months left on its “best-by” date, you can be sure that the honey will be fine for a long time.


Pasteurization: heat-treatment process that destroys harmful microorganisms in certain foods and beverages.

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 5.7


Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: 76

Copyright @smorescience. All rights reserved. Do not copy, cite, publish, or distribute this content without permission.

Join 20,000+ parents and educators
To get the FREE science digest in your inbox!