When you see a spot of mold on bread, you are just seeing the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, because mold has long threadlike roots that invade the food “and you might not be able to tell how far it’s gone,” said Marianne H. Gravely, an educator with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant or animal matter. The production of spores is characteristic of fungi in general.
The spores give mold the color you see. Molds have branches and roots that are like very thin threads. The roots may be difficult to see when the mold is growing on food and may be very deep in the food. Foods that are moldy may also have invisible bacteria growing along with the mold.
The health risks of mold exposure are many. “Mold can produce toxic substances, called mycotoxins, – says Katie George, a clinical dietitian at the University of Kansas Hospital – These toxins can cause respiratory problems, allergic reactions and illness. Aflatoxin, a specific type mycotoxin found in nuts and grains, can even be cancer-causing.”
The risk of damaging your health is always there, so it probably pays to take a careful approach.
Molds can grow in the fridge and will even survive freezing. They can also survive in salty, sugary and acidic environments.
As mold on our food is so hard to avoid, here are some general guidelines from the US Food Safety and Inspection Service on responding to the problem:
Foods that are moldy may also have bacteria that are invisible to the naked eye.
Do not eat these foods if moldy:
Luncheon meat, bacon, and hot dogs.
Yogurt, sour cream and soft cheese.
Soft fruits and vegetables
Bread and baked goods.
Peanut butter, nuts and legumes.
Jams and jellies
Never sniff mold that you see on food – that can lead to respiratory problems if the mold spores are inhaled. Wrap moldy food in a bag or in plastic before throwing it out and discard it in a trash can with a lid. Clean the area where the item was stored and check other food items nearby to see if they have been contaminated, since molds can spread easily through the air or by contact with contaminated foods.