Is Eating Moldy Food Actually Dangerous?
The idea of eating moldy food is pretty gross to most people. The sight of something fuzzy growing on your leftovers is enough to make one a bit nauseous. But is eating moldy food actually that dangerous to your health? Today we will take a close look at mold on food and how bad it is for you to consume.
How Does Mold Grow on Food?
Mold is a fungus that needs moisture, oxygen, and a surface to grow on. When these factors are present in food, mold may grow after some time. It usually appears white, green, black, or grey. You can generally spot mold on food, but it will also have a strange scent and taste.
What Foods Does Mold Most Usually Grow On?
Mold commonly grows on the following foods:
- Fruit and Vegetables
Certain types of mold can also grow on sugary, dry foods. In some cases, it may also grow on meat, dairy products, nuts and legumes, and processed foods.
So, Is Eating Moldy Food Dangerous?
In short, not always. Some moldy foods are generally safe to eat, and others are not. However, some food, like certain types of cheese, intentionally has mold in it. Penicillium is the mold that’s found in cheeses. It is in blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, Brie, and Camembert. This type of mold doesn’t allow mycotoxins to grow, which is why it is safe to eat. However, if you see other mold growing on the softer cheeses, it is best to avoid eating those. Any foods where toxins can form from mold are foods you should generally avoid if you see mold growth. These toxins are not usually heat-resistant. Hence, they would not disappear from the food cooking.
Some people have had severe reactions to consuming mold, but it is not very common. If you have a possible mold allergy or sensitivity, you should not risk consuming any moldy foods.
Moldy foods may also have invisible bacteria. In moldy foods that are not considered safe to eat, bacteria may grow beyond what you can see. That is why it is best to throw these foods away rather than risk the consumption of mold and bacteria.
What Moldy Foods Are Safe to Eat?
- Hard Cheese and Meat
- Firm Fruits and Vegetables
These foods have a lower moisture content and are denser. This means it is unlikely any possible mold or toxins from mold have spread through the entire food. You should cut off the moldy parts of these foods before consuming them.
What Moldy Foods Are Not Safe to Eat?
- Soft Cheese
- Soft Fruits and Vegetables
- Dairy Products
- Processed Meats
- Bread and Baked Goods
- Jellies and Jams
- Cooked Foods
These foods have a higher moisture content and thus contain a higher risk. Cutting the mold off of these foods would not prevent the consumption of mold and toxins. Bread and baked goods are very porous. This allows for mold to grow and spread throughout the entire item. Nuts can grow one of the most dangerous toxins, aflatoxins, so it is safer to throw them away. The USDA has a thorough list of which moldy foods should be discarded.
However, if you accidentally eat any moldy foods that are not considered “safe” to eat, you should be okay. It takes a while for toxins to develop from mold, and by then, you’ve likely thrown the food out. You may feel a bit of nausea, even from the idea, but you will likely be fine.
How To Prevent Mold from Growing on Food
Though foods have expiration dates, there are other things you can do to prevent mold growth. These include:
- Keep your fridge clean. Having a clean environment helps prevent bacteria and mold from growing.
- Keep your perishable foods cold. Perishable foods should not sit out too long, as any warmth can allow for mold growth.
- Use produce fast. Produce does not have a long life, so it is best to consume it soon after purchasing.
- Use leftovers quickly. Leftover foods, like casseroles, can go bad fast. Consuming them soon after cooking or baking will prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.
In summary, you likely won’t die from consuming mold. However, it is still best to be safe in case of any possible reactions. It is good to know which moldy foods are salvageable and which you should throw out. We hope you better understand moldy food and the dangers it may or may not pose to your health.