Is It Dangerous To Eat Mold On Food?
Many of us have wondered if it is dangerous to eat mold found on food. When we open the refrigerator and see the white and green fuzz covering our food, most of us throw it out and move on. Right? But how dangerous is mold when ingested? Are there times when it’s safe to consume?
In certain cases, mold proves to be beneficial. Like in blue cheese for example. Mold is what causes blue cheese to have its blue color. And moldy bread led to the discovery of our life-changing medication- penicillin. So, do we save our health when we toss out that fuzzy orange, or are we wasting food that could be beneficial to us?
What is Mold?
Mold is a type of fungus with hundreds of thousands of species. Like its cousin, the mushroom, depending on the species of mold, it may be safe to consume. While some mushrooms can be poisonous to humans, others are safe and often in our diets. Some are even considered delicacies. Certain mold, such as found in blue cheese, are safe to consume. While other species produce poisonous mycotoxins that can lead to life-altering illnesses. If an individual is allergic to mold, consumption is never a safe option. Even in cheese forms, reactions could occur.
When Does Mold Grow On Food?
To grow mold, it requires water or moisture, oxygen, and organic matter. In a Floridian home, all three of these elements are often present. Humidity, air exposure in the home, and any organic matter in the home acts as food, such as drywall or wood. For mold to grow on organic matter (food itself), first, water must be present in the food. Then, once exposed to air, the environment is preferable for mold to grow.
When mold spores land on food, they take hold and grow. Then, feeding on the nutrients in the food until the mold has produced enough to be visible to the human eye. After maturation, the new mold spores release into the environment. They travel throughout the air to find more nutrients and continue to grow. This process can occur quickly, especially with food nearby, like bread or fruit.
How Fast Can Mold Grow On Food?
The rate of which mold grows on food depends on the species of mold. It depends on the temperature and humidity level, as well as the type of food the mold is growing on. For the majority of mold species, a warmer temperature is its favorite environment. In warmer temps, mold appears quickly on fruits as they sit on countertops. Mold may even appear in a few days, especially if the humidity level is in an ideal range. Which many Floridian homes have. But, for foods in colder temps, like in the refrigerator, with less water content, mold may take a week or more to grow. The environment in which the mold grows determines the growth rate.
How Dangerous Is Mold On Food?
Symptoms from ingesting moldy food are like those from inhaling or touching mold. Symptoms vary based on a person’s immune response as well as the species of mold. Mold exposure of any kind can produce allergic reactions. Such as irritated eyes, coughing, sneezing, coughing. Those with asthma or chronic respiratory illnesses should be observant for flare-ups. The more pertinent concern is ingesting a mold species that is toxic ( with mycotoxins). Mycotoxin poisoning symptoms vary. The symptoms include reduced appetite, general malaise (or “not feeling well”). It may cause acute illness, or in rare cases, even death.
Mold growing on food often fits into three categories: Red, Yellow, Special. Use the fast check chart below to look at the usual foods affected in each type. Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!
*Do not try and smell for mold on food, mold spores can become inhaled and take hold in your respiratory system.
* Do not apply this chart to mold that you find growing in places other than food within your home. Please contact us if you suspect mold growing in your home so that we can provide you with a free inspection.
|Foods that contain soft and moist textures are perfect environments for mold growth. In addition to molds, bacteria also feed on these soft, moist conditions. Throw away any food in this category that has mold present and carefully inspect other food close.||Foods that are hard and less moist fall into the yellow category and may be kept if carefully removing the mold. Always cut at least 2cm more than the present mold, as there is deep mold invisible to the naked eye. Do not cut through the mold as you contaminate all the food you touch with the now moldy knife. In some cases, surface molds are a natural occurrence and must be scrubbed off, such as those occurring on some hard salamis.||Special cases in which present mold is safe to eat (in cases where the mold was used in the manufacturing process) is for cheeses made with mold. However, if other molds form on the cheese that is not due to the creating process, this is considered a red category and should be thrown away. Keep cheeses wrapped separately, so their mold strains do not cross-contaminate each other, especially in blue cheese.|
|•Deli meats, hot dogs, bacon|
•Dairy: such as sour cream & yogurt
•Cooked grains and pastas
•Leftover cooked meats & fish
•Soft fruits and vegetables (berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.)
*nuts. Legumes, bread, and baked goods are dry foods that also fit into the red category
•Firm Fruits and Vegetables (carrots, cabbage, bell peppers, etc.)
•Hard Salami and Dry-Cured Ham