How Bad Is It to Eat Moldy Foods?

You’ve probably come across some moldy food that seems salvageable: that piece of bread with a moldy spot or that pepper with moss-covered seeds. And what about moldy cheese? Is it safe to eat that?

Let’s analyze it.

What is mold and what causes it?

Molds They are fungi that live on plants and animals and reproduce by forming mold spores that are transported by air, water and insects. When food spoils, it is often due to mold, which can make food look, smell, and feel “bad.”

Although disgusting, mold is Mother Nature’s way of food waste recycling breaking down organic matter and returning it to the environment.

If you see fuzzy green, white, gray, or black spots growing on your food, it’s likely mold that forms thread-like structures large enough to see with the naked eye.

“When food is not stored properly or consumed on time, mold can really thrive,” says Brittany Crump, MPH, RD in Savor nutrition.

So be sure to inspect food before bringing it home. It may have been stored at temperatures that encourage growth and may already be moldy.

Mold blooms on hot, humid and humid conditions. In fact, mold grows best in room temperaturebut can die at temperatures as low as 140 degrees F.

Is it safe to eat foods that have mold on them?

How bad is it to eat moldy foods? That depends on the food.

“The most conservative option is to throw away the food if you see mold,” Crump advises. “Note that this applies when you see actual mold growth and does not simply apply to stale or old food.”

In other words, that wrinkled pepper is still safe to eat.

What happens if you eat moldy food?

Mold can certainly make you sick, and some molds are dangerous as they can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems.

Mold itself can carry bacteria, further increasing the risk to food safety. Some molds can even produce toxins; the two most common are:

  • Mycotoxins: a substance poisonous to humans and produced by molds commonly found in cereals, nuts, apples, and some juices.
  • Aflatoxins: a specific mycotoxin that can cause cancer and is found in corn and peanuts

Can you kill mold by cooking it?

Since molds die 140-190 degrees F, you may be wondering if you can just cook moldy tomatoes and vegetables. It is not recommended.

Mycotoxins produced by molds are heat tolerant and it can still stay there to make you sick.

What foods are prone to mold?

Strawberry, cheese and bread covered in mold |  moldy food

Mold can grow on most foods, especially if moisture is present. They love to grow foods with high water content, so foods prone to mold are:

  • fruit such as peaches, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, lemons, oranges, apples, etc.
  • Vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, corn, cucumbers, etc.
  • Cheeses including soft cheeses such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, etc., and harder cheeses such as cheddar, parmesan, swiss, colby jack, etc.
  • Bread from pre-cut soft varieties to drier varieties such as rye, baguettes, sourdough, etc.
  • meats kept beyond the expiration date, such as sausages, bacon, hot dogs, etc.

What foods should you throw away?

Depending on the moldy food, the USDA recommends throwing it away or keeping it for consumption as long as you follow safe practices. Foods that the USDA recommends throwing away typically have high water content.

If you see mold, there are often bacteria growing along with it. In the case of soft or porous foods like bread, mold can easily contaminate beneath the surface, making it difficult to rescue.

If you see mold on these foods, definitely throw them away:

  • Sausages, bacon, hot dogs
  • Leftover cooked meat or poultry
  • Cooked stews, cereals, pasta.
  • Discard soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert if they contain molds that are not part of the manufacturing process.
  • soft cheeses
  • Shredded, grated or sliced ​​cheeses
  • Jams and jellies (mycotoxins may be present)
  • Peanut butter, legumes, nuts
  • Yogurt or sour cream
  • Bread and baked goods
  • Soft fruits and vegetables

Moldy foods that you can still use

According to Crump, “Once you see mold on food, there’s a good chance that mold has contaminated it, too.” beneath the surfacethough not always”.

As long as you follow safe handling guidelines, it is still possible to consume these foods even if you see mold:

Food Management guidelines Because
Hard salami or dry-cured hams Remove mold from the top of food. Food is shelf stable and mold on the surface is expected.
Hard cheeses and hard cheeses made with mold (Gorgonzola, Stilton) Cut an inch around and below where you see mold, and be careful not to touch any moldy areas with the knife, or you risk contamination. Mold cannot contaminate deep beneath the surface of hard cheeses.
Firm fruits and vegetables (cabbage, bell peppers, carrots) Cut an inch around and below where you see mold, and be careful not to touch any moldy areas with the knife, or you risk contamination. Firm fruits and vegetables have a lower water content and are more difficult for mold to contaminate deep below the surface.

To help you decide which foods to throw away or keep, follow these guidelines by the USDA.

How should moldy foods be handled?

Man throws moldy carrots |  moldy food

After you spot a moldy food item that needs to be discarded, follow these tips to safely dispose of the culprit:

  • Don’t smell the food since mold and spores can cause respiratory problems.
  • Cover moldy food in plastic wrap or a paper bag and throw it in the trash.
  • Clean the area where food was stored.
  • Check nearby foods to see if they have also developed mold.

Can you prevent mold from growing on food?

Food Ziplock Bags |  moldy food

To counteract mold, we resort to freezing, drying, canning, and pickling foods. But mold spores are everywhere: once food is opened and exposed, there’s no telling where they’ll land.

To prevent mold from growing, try to limit food exposure to mold spores by following these tips:

  • Cover leftovers with plastic wrap
  • Empty unused food from cans into lidded storage jars
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours and eat leftovers within three to four days.

By storing food properly and purchasing reasonable quantities of food throughout the week, you can keep food mold under control and reduce food waste.

If you need more guidance, read these tips on how to plan, prepare, and store your meals for the week.

What types of mold grow on food?

These are some of the most common types of food moldsaccording to the USDA:

1. Alternaria

Moldy tomato |  moldy food

TO black mold It is found in overripe tomatoes and can cause soft, sunken spots.

2. Aspergilium

Moldy pomegranate Aspergillus |  moldy food

Also know as “fruit rot”, this mold grows from the inside of the fruit.

3. Mucor

Mucor from moldy strawberries |  moldy food

TO diffuse mold found on ripe or damaged berries; The cold doesn’t slow them down, which is why they are still commonly seen on refrigerated strawberries.

4. cladosporium

Moldy green leafy vegetables Cladosporium |  moldy food

A mold that causes spots on leaves on green leafy vegetables like spinach.

5. fusarium

Fusariam Moldy Corn Cobs |  moldy food

A mold that can grow on corn (both food and feed) and produce form of mycotoxin, which can cause or worsen breathing problems.

6. Geotrichum

Two moldy blocks of Geotrichum cheese |  moldy food

a common white mold It is found in mature and soft cheeses and other dairy products.

7. Monilia

Moldy Quince Monilia |  moldy food

TO mold It is found in soft fruits and can also cause red bread molds.

8. Botrytis

Moldy grape botrytis |  moldy food

a blur, gray mold that grows on fruits and vegetables.

9. Penicillium

Moldy tangerine orange penicillium |  moldy food

TO mold It is found in many types of foods, including cereals, bread, garlic, cheese, nuts, and fruits; Its presence can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

10. Rhizopus

Rhizopus Moldy Bread Slices |  moldy food

TO gray, spongy mold often tinged blue and yellow which can produce black spores; It is common in old bread but can also grow on fruits.

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