Acidity. Most bacteria prefer neutral growing conditions. The enzymes bees use to break down the sugar in nectar make it more acidic and less appealing for bacterial growth.
Sugar content. Honey has a lot of sugar, but only 18% water, which is not sufficient for most bacteria to grow. Honey has so much sugar that it's hygroscopic - which is the ability to absorb moisture out of the air. When honey is exposed to humidity, more water is added, and when the water content rises above 25%, bacteria will eventually be able to grow. That is why the container of honey should be closed.
Antimicrobial compounds. Hydrogen peroxide is produced as a byproduct of some of the enzymes used by bees to digest more complex sugars. Some honey types also contain antimicrobial compounds such as defensin-1, an antibiotic produced by bees.
Combined, these three properties mean honey is very stable as long as it's not exposed to outside moisture or humidity.
Most foods spoil because of the growth of microbes. Preserving food is an attempt to limit microbial growth. Food can be preserved by drying, salting, chilling, or storing in air-tight containers.
Drying is the most effective because microbial growth is inhibited.
Salting is effective because it removes moisture, creating an environment where microbes cannot survive.
Sugar coating can prevent bacterial cells from functioning correctly.
Storing in air-tight containers is less effective because there are probably a lot of microbes on the food before you put it in the container. Some microbes are anaerobic, meaning they don't need oxygen.
Preservatives are used in foods to extend their shelf lives. One of McDonald's Big Mac in Iceland is an example of a long-lasting processed food. It has been on display since 2009, in a glass box. Preservatives that has been discontinued by McDonald's are:
calcium propionate that prevents mold growth on bread.
sorbic acid that also inhibits mold from cheese
sodium benzoate, which inhibits the growth of bacteria in the Big Mac special sauce.
With all due respect to sauvignon blanc drinkers, New Zealand's trendiest liquid export is something far sweeter than wine. Derived from the nectar of a native bush ( leptospermum scoparium ), manuka honey has stirred enthusiasm among health-conscious connoisseurs since the early '80s, when a local scientist first confirmed that it possesses unique, antimicrobial properties.
The honey bees species (Apis mellifera) that are necessary for commercial honey production are not native ones of New Zealand but arrived in 1839 due to an English beekeeper, Mary Bumby.
She managed to bring the skeps (woven baskets) of honey bees in a six-month voyage from England, paving the way for the bees to start working on the manuka bushes.
The honey did not gain popularity until 1980, when Dr. Peter Molan confirmed the unique antibacterial properties of the nectar, along with the already known healing properties. A series of quantifiable tests proved that manuka honey can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
By 1991, manuka honey was marketed in the U.S. which was going through a health and fitness resurgence, gaining massive adoption and cult status. It also gained traction as a versatile and healthier sugar substitute.
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