Even if we buy just as much food as we need and if we store it just the way it should be, every one of us have seen mold. In the best case – on special kinds of cheese or salami, in the worse one – on bread and pork we forgot to eat two weeks earlier. If that happened I hope you immediately put it all into a plastic bag and discarded, but did you know, that there are some products which doesn’t require that step to be so radical?
Molds may cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Some of them, in the right conditions, produce mycotoxins (characteristic, poisonous substances) that can be really dangerous for our health. This situation doesn’t apply to special cheese and salami made with mold – unless they have been infected with molds that are not a part of the manufacturing process – in this case even these should be discarded or the part with the unwanted mold should be cutted off. But who knows, when can we cut instead of throwing the whole product away?
So it looks like mold is only on the surface of your favorite jam or yoghurt? You’re right, it only looks like that. Microscopic spores, impossible to see with a naked eye, are very easily contaminating deep into many products, and, what is even worse, most dangerous mycotoxins do it even more effectively.
The first and basic rule is: for „soft” products, with high moisture content – discard if you see the smallest mold symptom. That also applies to fruits – although none of us would eat molded strawberry, the thing is not that obvious with “just-a-bit-green orange” – but it should be! Same rule for meat and its preparations and all the things that have been cooked. Most probably, if you can see mold on these, they also have bacteria growing along with the mold, and that might be even worse. Last thing we also need to discard, no matter how much mold is it there – bread and other porous products – although they might me not very moisturized or soft, mold and its spores are migrating through pores very effectively.
Happily, there are some kinds of food, that don’t require discarding whole product, when they are contaminated – it is enough to cut off the mold spot (with 2-3 cm around and below it) to eat the rest without any worries. These products are hard cheeses and firm fruits and vegetables (e.g. carrots, cabbage). Remember to keep the knife out of the mold itself so it will not cross-contaminate other parts of the product.
If you want to reduce the amount of perishable products in your household, try to take care of clean environment around the food and more often, but smaller purchases. Remember, that some kinds of mold are growing even in the refrigerator, although you can reduce the risk by regular cleaning. Also keep your utensils clean, so you will not contaminate the food you want to store. Try to lower moisture level in your home to 40-60%, because mold loves water. At the end remember to dispose moldy products as soon as you notice them, to avoid the transfer of mold on other products.
But if your delicious sandwiches are already getting green or black – avoid sniffing them, which can cause respiratory troubles (spores will immediately get into your lungs) and discard immediately, tightly packed (so no kids or animals will have an opportunity to accidentally eat it). Also remember to carefully wash the food container before putting new sandwiches there.
What if we bite something that tastes moldy? If you’re not allergic - don’t panic. Most of us will just excrete it – sometimes with diarrhea or vomits, but with no bigger problems. Usually it possess health risk potential only for people with compromised immune systems. Children and elderly people should definitely avoid it. For healthy adults only huge amounts or longer contact is dangerous (eating moldy yoghurts regularly is rather impossible, but inhaling it every day, when we have it on our walls, is very risky)Information about particular products cutting/discarding are adapted from USDA.
Chemistry student at the University of Gdańsk, fascinated with molecular modeling. Nature enthusiast.