Let me set this up for you … it’s Labor day weekend and you’ve fired up the grill with some burgers, brats, or whatever grilled goodness you can think of. You head inside and grab the bag-o-buns and (gulp) notice a few small greenish spots on the surface.
While no one is looking you face the critical decision, do you pluck off the little green spots and serve the buns up, or is it time to head to the store for a fresh set? It’s a hard call, but keep this in mind – the colorful spots you see on food are just the surface spores that allow the mold to reproduce. Just like plants, mold has roots below the surface that can travel deep into the food.
Because the colorful spores on the surface of your food are just part of the mold, scraping or cutting this part off of your bread or bagel won’t save you from eating a mouthful of fungus. While you probably won’t die from eating fungus, keep in mind that foods that are moldy may also have invisible bacteria growing along with the mold.
Most molds are harmless, but some are dangerous. Some contain mycotoxins. These are poisonous substances produced by certain molds found primarily in grain and nut crops, but are also known to be on celery, grape juice, apples, and other produce. These substances are often contained in and around the threads that burrow into the food and can cause allergic reactions or respiratory problems.
Yes, molds are used to make certain kinds of cheeses and can be on the surface of cheese or be developed internally. Blue veined cheese such as Roquefort, blue, Gorgonzola, and Stilton are created by the introduction of P. roqueforti or Penicillium roqueforti spores. Cheeses such as Brie and Camembert have white surface molds. Other cheeses have both an internal and a surface mold. The molds used to manufacture these cheeses are safe to eat.
The USDA has a nice chart about how to deal with various foods that are moldy. Check it out for all the details. It breaks down into the two obvious options – Don’t Eat vs. Eat.
Don’t Eat – throw these out if you see mold
Eat – after cutting off the mold
Remember while you’re preparing all this food, removing mold, etc. that you should be washing your hands and food prep surfaces often. Check out what can be growing in and around the surfaces of your house in this Imagine It! video segment. In short, avoid the molds and wash your hands – often!
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