Understanding Mold on Food: Tips for Safe Consumption or Disposal

Your food is starting to mold, here’s what to do. This depends on the type of food. Your foods are beginning to mold. Between wasting by throwing them away and risking intoxication, the choice can be difficult. In reality, most molds present on food are harmless, but it is practically impossible to visually distinguish what is safe, as indicated by National Geographic. So, what to do?

Molds are omnipresent—on surfaces, in the air, in the soil—and can grow almost anywhere, but they still prefer warm, humid, and nutrient-rich environments. There are thousands of different mold species, and a wide variety can be found in your kitchen. For example, Penicillium that develops on apples and Aspergillus that grows on grapes and coffee produce mycotoxins that can cause intoxication or kidney damage, specifies Jae-Hyuk Yu, a mold genetics specialist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. What can be salvaged and what should be discarded?

“The nature of the food plays an important role,” explains Don Schaffner, president of the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University. For dense foods like hard cheese or carrots, where mold can be clearly seen, simply cutting away the moldy part, plus an additional centimeter, is sufficient.

As for berries in a container, it all depends on the amount of visible mold. If it’s only one or two isolated berries, just discard them and wash the others thoroughly. However, for moister foods like yogurt, jams, or hummus, where the extent of mold is less obvious, it’s difficult to remove it. Unfortunately, they must be thrown away.

The same goes for meat and fish. Cooking them will only kill the fungus but leave the toxins it has produced intact. Finally, for bread, it’s the same: Jae-Hyuk Yu advises discarding any bread at the first sign of mold.

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