eli5: Why does honey “never” go bad?


eli5: Why does honey “never” go bad?

In: 13

Sugar is a fairly stable product that doesn’t break down on its own. A concentrated sugar solution is inhospitable to microbial life. So no bacteria etc that can grow in or on it to “spoil” it.

Hence a properly sealed container of honey keeps for a very long time. Doesn’t need refrigeration etc.

There are a couple of main reasons that drive honey’s insanely long shelf life:

1. Honey is low in moisture. *Very* low.
* Without sufficient moisture, bacteria dry out and die.
* Not only that, but the fraction of the water it does have that is accessible (called its *water activity*) is *also* too low.
2. Honey is naturally mildly acidic, with a pH of about 4.
* This acidity is not conducive to bacterial life and growth.
3. The production of the acidifying compounds in honey also cause the by-production of hydrogen peroxide — yes, that very same hydrogen peroxide your mom may have put on your scrapes when you were younger.

All of these combine to create a natural wonder that can, and has been found to, survive thousands of years and still be edible!

It has low water activity. Basically that means it doesn’t really have enough water to support life. Like potato chips or crackers they don’t get moldy as long as the bag is sealed and air (which contains water) is kept away. The low water activity means that it acts like salt, sucking the water out of stuff and dehydrating it, and nothing really grows in those conditions (those spores are not killed by it, that’s why you can’t give honey to babies)