Molds are microscopic fungi with branches and roots which can be hard to identify when it’s growing on food. They are found in both plants and animal matter. You’ve probably pulled out a loaf of bread out of your cabinet only to find some green fuzzy spot on the slices. That is known as mold and deciding to cut off the moldy part or eating it is what we sometimes do. But do you know that mold causes allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and some poisonous mycotoxins that cause infection?
Types of Mold You Will Find in Food
It’s not clear how many mold species there are but it’s estimated to be between tens of thousands to over a few hundred thousand. Some of which aren’t dangerous to human health, while others can lead to severe health conditions. Before eating that piece of bread with tiny mold patches, you should first understand what you’re dealing with. Each type of mold has its characteristics, growth patterns and health effect you should know about. Here are the common types of mold you will find on your food.
This is a toxigenic type of mold that causes an allergic reaction and is commonly found in cellulose material like woods, cardboard, paper, and hay. It’s also referred to as black mold which thrives in damp, wet areas with high humidity. Stachybotrys is dark greenish or black in color and produces mycotoxins that can cause serious health issues if consumed. null
Penicillin mold can be easily recognized by its characteristic blue or green colored surface and causes an allergic reaction. This mold is common in bread and other foods all over the world. Interestingly, penicillin is used by people to purposefully flavor foods. Others use it as an antibiotic. Penicillin isn’t dangerous unless you have allergies.
However, there are certain types of penicillin that can cause mycotoxins which have been linked to cancers and other illnesses. Thus, prolonged consumption of penicillin can be dangerous to one’s health.
Cladosporium is notorious in causing allergies which lead to sneezing, coughing and wheezing. It ranges in color from deep green to black. It’s easily identifiable in bread because it produces odor compared to other molds. This is helpful since you will notice it before eating the food.
Is It Safe to Eat Mold?
You’re advised not to eat food with mold because it causes harmful health effects. But because we’ve said that some molds aren’t harmful, this doesn’t mean you should eat bread infected with mold. It’s impossible to know what kind of mold is growing on the food by looking at it, so you should assume all molds are harmful. Also, don’t go smelling moldy food since you can inhale spores from the fungus which can result in breathing difficulties including asthma especially for allergic persons. Additionally, people with a weak immune system such as from poorly controlled diabetes are vulnerable to infection. They should avoid mold altogether.
Don’t Salvage Moldy Food
Be it bread, cheese or any other food, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends you throw away the entire food. Though you might only see a few tiny spots of the fungus, its microscopic roots can move quickly through food. Hence avoid scraping off mold or salvage an infected food. The poisonous mycotoxins produced affects the digestive system and can sicken animals too so don’t feed contaminated food to your pets. Furthermore, long term exposure to mycotoxins alters the makeup of the microbes that protect the gut.
Preventing Mold Formation
There are simple steps you should take to avoid mold formation which includes securely covering foods in the fridge (with plastic wrap or containers), eating leftovers within four days and not leaving perishable food out for more than two hours. What’s more, you should be realistic about the amount of food you cook and buy. For example, if you live alone, you’re not going to finish a loaf of bread before mold shows up. Also, you can use lactic acid bacteria which produces acids that deter mold growth. Vinegar, cinnamon, and cloves also prevent mold growth and you can try spraying your food with a little bit of any of them although they might alter the flavor of the food.
Under no circumstances should you eat food with mold because mold roots spread quickly through food though you can’t see them. Consuming a mold-contaminated food can trigger health complications including breathing issues. The overall symptoms of mold exposure include:
- Red eyes
- A stuffy nose
- A runny nose
- Itchy skin
- Nose bleed
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