Does Manuka Honey Go Bad? Tips on Storage, Shelf Life

Manuka honey, a unique and widely sought-after honey variety, is derived from the nectar of the native Manuka bush found in Australia and New Zealand. It is highly valued for its numerous health benefits, boasting antibacterial properties and potential wound-healing effects.

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One little-known aspect of Manuka honey that we wish to shed light on today is how it behaves over time. Let’s find out if this golden elixir ever expires.

Does Manuka Honey Expire?

The straightforward answer to this query would be: not really. Manuka honey, like any other honey, boasts an impressive shelf life. In fact, if stored appropriately, this natural wonder can persist for years on end.

While most brands of Manuka honey will list a “best before” date on their labels, it’s important to know that this is not the same as an “expiry” date. Contrary to what one might assume, the “best before” date does not mean that the honey will go bad after that date. It simply tells you when the honey is expected to maintain its best quality, particularly its medicinal properties, which the Manuka variety is well-known for.

After the “best before” date, Manuka honey remains edible, but the activity level measures may not be as precise. This refers to factors like the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF), Methylglyoxal (MGO), and Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA) – all of which signify the bioactive potency or antibacterial strength of the honey. If you’re using Manuka honey for its health benefits, it’s a good idea to stick to the “best before” date.

The Secret to Manuka Honey’s Never-Ending Freshness

If you’ve been wondering how Manuka honey avoids spoilage, it’s important to understand its unique biology. First, its low pH range, which falls between 3.2 and 4.5, is crucial. This acidity level discourages bacterial growth. Combined with its antimicrobial properties and enzymes that further suppress the growth of microbes, Manuka honey possesses a natural protective shield.

Here’s another interesting fact: all types of honey, including Manuka, contain about 80% sugar, which acts as a preservative, and have a low water content. Both of these factors contribute to honey’s longevity by inhibiting the growth of harmful microbes.

Factors That Affect the Potency of Manuka Honey

The quality and potency of Manuka honey are influenced by various factors, such as its natural chemical composition and the rate of conversion of its bioactive compounds.

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a lesser-known bioactive ingredient in Manuka honey, is naturally present in mānuka nectar. When bees convert this nectar into honey, it results in conversion from DHA to methylglyoxal (MGO). This process increases non-peroxide activity (NPA) and enhances the honey’s antibacterial properties.

In the first couple of years, the concentration of MGO increases rapidly as DHA converts to MGO. As more DHA is used, the rate of conversion declines, and eventually, the MGO concentration begins to decline when insufficient DHA remains to support it. This is particularly noticeable in honeys close to their five-year shelf life.

The temperature at which Manuka honey is stored also affects the rate of DHA to MGO conversion. Storing Manuka honey at or below 23°C (73°F) helps ensure that its bioactive compounds are preserved, while also allowing for a partial conversion of those compounds.

Does Crystallization Mean Manuka Honey Has Gone Bad?

It’s quite a common experience to find that your jar of honey has hardened or crystallized over time. This change in consistency often leads to assumptions that the honey has spoiled. However, this is far from the truth. The crystallization of Manuka honey is a completely natural process, that doesn’t suggest spoilage.

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Manuka honey, like all natural and raw honeys, can crystallize or solidify, sometimes even within the honeycomb itself. Over time, you may notice that your Manuka honey darkens or appears less clear. There’s no need to be put off by these changes though. Despite the shift in appearance, the crystallized honey is entirely safe to consume.

A cool temperature can cause honey to crystallize. Refrigerating Manuka honey will speed up this process and alter its texture. If you prefer a runnier texture, you can simply liquefy the crystallized honey by warming it gently.

How to Correctly Store Manuka Honey

Manuka honey, like other types of honey, requires proper storage to maintain its quality and medicinal properties. By following these storage guidelines, you can ensure that your Manuka honey remains fresh and ready for use:

1. Choose the right location: Store Manuka honey in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area. It’s essential to keep the honey away from direct sunlight and high temperatures, as they can negatively affect its freshness and potency.

2. Seal the container: After each use, make sure that the honey jar is tightly closed. This prevents air from entering the container and causing contamination.

3. Avoid moisture: As a hygroscopic substance, honey tends to absorb moisture from the environment, which can lead to fermentation. To prevent this, store your Manuka honey in a location with low humidity.

4. Do not refrigerate: Although it might seem like a good idea to store honey in the fridge, doing so can cause moisture absorption and crystallization. Manuka honey is best stored at room temperature.

5. Use a dry spoon: When scooping honey from the jar, always use a completely dry spoon. Introducing any moisture to the honey can promote fermentation.

6. Keep away from heating appliances: The area around your stove and other heating appliances can become too warm for honey storage. Find a cool spot in your kitchen or pantry to store your Manuka honey instead.

Significance of Authentic Manuka Honey Products

Notwithstanding the durable nature of Manuka honey, certain factors can compromise its quality. Fermentation, adulteration, or improper storage can potentially cause Manuka honey to go bad. For instance, if the moisture content in honey pushes past 19%, osmophilic yeasts might start growing, leading to fermentation.

Adulteration occurs either directly, by adding substances like corn syrup, agave syrup, or sugarcane molasses, or indirectly, like feeding bees with sugars to yield low-quality honey. A hive’s proximity to a sugar or beverage processing plant can also result in indirect adulteration. So, it is crucial to choose authentic Manuka honey products from trusted brands in order to minimize such risks.

Concluding Thoughts

Manuka honey, with its remarkable shelf life, offers a wealth of health benefits that can be enjoyed over an extended period. Remember, this honey does not really expire but rather its potency can decrease over time, especially if not stored correctly. Therefore, it’s essential to consider the storage guidelines mentioned above and always choose authentic Manuka honey brands to maximize this natural superfood’s potential.

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