Here's the buzz on honey's long lifespan.

Unearthing Egypt's pyramids, modern archaeologists have found artifacts dating back thousands of years, including pots filled with honey that never spoiled.

To understand honey's un-bee-lievable shelf life, we turned to beekeeper Whendi Grad and her husband, Garnett Puett, a fourth-generation beekeeper at Big Island Bees in Hawaii. Grad and Puett maintain 2,000 hives using traditional beekeeping methods.

Can Honey Go Bad?

When it's stored properly, honey never goes bad, Grad said in an interview with Allrecipes.

"Honey will darken and/or crystallize, but it is still safe to eat," she said. Metal or plastic containers can oxidize the honey, and heat can change its flavor. So, for best results, store it away from any heat-producing electronics in your kitchen.

Even more important is sealing honey in an air-tight, glass container to prevent it from fermenting, Grad said. And be careful to use clean, dry utensils when scooping from the jar; moisture contamination will ruin honey.

Honey's low moisture content keeps bacteria from surviving. And without bacteria at work, honey just doesn't spoil. Plus, honey is acidic enough to ward off most of the bacteria and organisms that spoil other food.

What's more, the bees add their own enzymes to honey, and these enzymes produce hydrogen peroxide. Yes, that's the same antiseptic we use to treat wounds.

"Because honey is naturally antimicrobial, it has been used throughout history for almost every illness of mind and body," Grad said. "In the past, physicians in the battlefields would pack honey into the wounds of soldiers to prevent bacteria from growing." Even today, hospitals use medical-grade honey to treat strains of drug-resistant bacteria, she added.

beekeeper working in a field
Credit: Big Island Bees

So Then Why Is There an Expiration Date on the Honey Bottle?

Honey can stay edible for years, even decades, but honey is a natural product, which means it will change over time. For honey, those changes may include darkening color, thicker consistency, and different taste.

Changes in honey are actually good signs (so long as they're not signs of fermentation). It proves your honey is high quality and unpasteurized. Pasteurization is a process that heats honey to destroy the natural yeasts. It helps the honey stay smoother longer, and it might remove some natural debris from the comb, but it isn't necessary for the safety of the food.

Expiration dates on commercially-sold honey are more of a marker for stores to rotate in newer, fresher stock. Most honey will sell long before that date nears, but if you pick up a bottle with just a few months left on its "best-by window," you can rest assured that honey is fine for a long time to come.

So, next time you add honey to a dessert or spoon it into tea to soothe a sore throat, you'll know that its benefits go way beyond flavor. And you can now justify buying as much honey as you please — it won't expire.