Is it safe to eat that moldy bread?

Imagination StationLet 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.

The colorful mold you see on the surface of food is just the tip of what is going on inside.

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.

Are any food molds beneficial?

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.

What to do if you see mold on your food?

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

  • Luncheon meats, bacon, or hot dogs, Cooked leftover meat and poultry, Cooked casseroles, Cooked grain and pasta, Soft cheese
  • (such as cottage, cream cheese, Neufchatel, chevre, Bel Paese, etc.) Crumbled, shredded, and sliced cheeses (all types), Yogurt and sour cream, Peanut butter, legumes and nuts, Bread and baked goods.
  • Jams and jellies (The mold could be producing a mycotoxin. Microbiologists recommend against scooping out the mold and using the remaining condiment.)
  • Cheese made with mold (such as Roquefort, blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Brie, Camembert)

Eat – after cutting off the mold

  • Hard salami and dry-cured country hams (Eat them. Scrub mold off surface. It is normal for these shelf-stable products to have surface mold.)
  • Firm fruits and vegetables (such as cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, etc.) as well as hard cheeses are OK to eat if you remove the mold.  Cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot. Keep the knife out of the mold itself so it will not cross-contaminate other parts of the produce.

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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About the author

Carl Nelson is the Chief Scientist and Exhibits Director at Imagination Station in Toledo, Ohio. He holds a Masters Degree in Experimental Physics from Michigan State University and has been having fun exploring (exploding?) science in Science Centers for the past 19 years.

Comments

17 Responses to “Is it safe to eat that moldy bread?”
  1. Meena Nair says:

    i dont really understand if the molds are safe

  2. ARIANA says:

    THATS SOOO TRUE

  3. ARIANA says:

    IS MOLD REALLY SAFE I DONT UNDERSTAND

  4. sheree says:

    who is the editor of this peice put your info please

  5. jasmine says:

    that is gross why would you eat it after it had mold on it what if you had young children? would you give it to them?

  6. Carl says:

    Hi Sheree,
    The author information is included at the bottom of the posting. Chief Scientist, Carl Nelson.

  7. jamiara says:

    hi my mane is jamiara as you can see and i don’t think its safe to eat mold period …. because what if there’s mold you cant see and you eat it you will be sick and thats just my personal oppion

  8. afrde says:

    To answer the question.
    Don’t eat it, it will make you sick and you will throw up

  9. Sarah says:

    Thank you, Carl, for keeping all your stories informational and interesting!

  10. Carl says:

    I would not suggest eating moldy bread.

    Carl

  11. Michael says:

    I just ate hardened milk curd with mold. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I mean, it’s fermented and has fungus already, right?

  12. Jordan says:

    Aw man, no Michael. You’re a goner.

  13. Ellie says:

    mold is digusting

  14. Makes me wonder how my husband at 80 and I at 74 could be so healthy after all the bread we have eaten after picking off mold.

  15. Bits says:

    Also, if the moldy objects were in a container that you re-use, like a breadbox or refrigerator drawer, always wash and dry it thoroughly BEFORE storing anything in it again. Never re-use moldy plastic bags, even to store the remainder of the mold farm.
    Washing hands FREQUENTLY while handling food, surfaces and utensils, is the single most important way to prevent mold. IF POSSIBLE, avoid touching edges of food you will be saving for other meals.

  16. Bits says:

    All that said … I have had good luck eating moldy stuff. I cut out big chunks around the mold, and nuke the ‘edible’ part on high before consuming. Then I let my stomach acid do its job. So, I’ve built up some resistance to most common molds.
    But, of course … YMMV.
    I’d say the biggest risk is from bacteria from your hands, face or utensils, that hitches a ride on the mold. It’s one of those things that is easier to prevent than cure.

  17. DELORES says:

    H MY NAME IS DELORES I AM DOING A SCIENCE FAIR AND MINE BREAD MOLD I SAY DON’T EAT IT OR PINK BREAD.

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