When is mold in food dangerous to health?

When is mold in food dangerous to health?

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I throw it or I eat it? Surely you’ve ever wondered this when reopening a half-forgotten bottle of tomato sauce or jam and finding a grayish fluff on the surface.

Molds are microscopic fungi that feed on animal or vegetable matter. Meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and breads succumb to their invasion.

What you see, green, blue, white, gray or brown are just the spores of those tens of thousands of different fungi. Below are stems and roots , which grow in the food.

So is it safe to remove the mold and eat what is left? It depends. Some types of mold are more dangerous than others.

Surprisingly, the Food Security and Inspections (FSIS) service of the US Department of Agriculture has detailed information and recommendations on what to do and what not to do when finding mold in food.

Like dandelions

Fungi have branches, stems and roots, which are like small threads.

Illustration of fungus of the genus Aspergillus,
Copyright of the image DR_MICROBE / GETTY IMAGES
Image caption The most dangerous mycotoxins are the so-called aflatoxins, produced by fungi of the genus Aspergillus, as in the illustration.

“Roots can be hard to see when mold grows in food and can get deeper into the food,” reports FSIS.

If a food has a lot of mold on the surface, the roots will have penetrated it deeply, they warn.

Some molds can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems.

Others, in the right conditions can generate mycotoxins , which are poisonous substances for our health.

Which are the most dangerous and which are harmless?

Mycotoxins are produced mainly by molds that grow in grains and nines , although they can also be present in other products such as celery, grape juice and apples.

In fact the potential presence of these toxins is of great importance for the industry of cereals, seeds, nuts and dehydrated fruits, according to storage conditions.

Salami
Copyright of the image TASHKA2000 / GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Some salamis and hard cured meats usually have some mold on the surface that is safe to scrape before consuming.

The most dangerous mycotoxins are called aflatoxins , which are cancerous.

They are produced by fungi of the genus Aspergillus, which grow mainly in peanuts or peanuts, but can also be found in Brazil nuts and almonds.

On the other hand, patulin, another type of mitocoxin, can also be found frequently in apples and unfermented apple juices.

In very general terms, as a rule without nuances, one could say that green and white molds tend to be harmless, while browns should be avoided .

But there are exceptions: some green or white molds can produce toxins and can not be identified or distinguished with the naked eye.

For example, molds that are used to make cheeses are safe. Many are varieties of the old known penicillin.

However, this does not mean that all Penicillins are safe.

What moldy foods can be saved and which ones are best discarded?

FSIS recommends discarding moldy food that has a high moisture content , because it may be contaminated below the surface.

Moldy orange
Copyright of the image ZHONGYANJIANG / GETTY IMAGES
Image captionFSIS recommends discarding moldy food that has a high moisture content, because it may be contaminated below the surface.

It also warns that some moldy foods may contain bacteria that grows with mold.

Among the foods that recommend discarding are cold cuts, bacon, sausages, cooked meats, pasta, cooked grains, yoghurts, jams and sour cream.

As an exception it mentions some salamis and hard cured meats, which usually have certain mold on the surface that is safe to scrape before consuming.

The FSIS page points out that it is difficult for mold to penetrate dense, non-porous foods.

Mold in hard fruits and vegetables, with low moisture content, such as cabbage, peppers or carrots, can be removed to consume the rest of the food. They recommend cutting at least 2cm and a half around and below the mold.

In the case of hard cheeses , it is also safe to remove the moldy part and consume the rest.

However, in the case of soft cheeses ( cottage , cream cheese) and those already scratched, they recommend throwing it away.

On the other hand, FSIS recommends discarding cheeses that are already made with mold, such as roquefort, blue, brie and camembert, if they develop molds that are not part of the manufacturing process, because they can be dangerous.

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