Few things sting as
much as the betrayal of a beloved food. You bite into a sandwich or a piece of
fruit and just as you’re poised to swallow, you realise it’s covered in mould.
Do you immediately
spit it out? Rinse out your mouth? Call your mom?
Well, according to
Dr Rudolph Bedford, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health
Center in Santa Monica, California, you’re probably fine. But there are a few things
worth noting about eating mould, one being the rare occasion when mouldy food
can actually make you sick.
What will happen if I eat mould?
“Well, you’re not
going to die from it,” says Dr Bedford, “and you can digest it like any other
food,” as long as your immune system is in good shape.
microscopic fungi, creep up on plant and animal products after being
transported by air, water, or insects. They can be dangerous, but usually
aren’t. They’re even meant to be on some foods, including dry-cured
country hams and cheeses such as blue, Gorgonzola, Brie, and Camembert – and
they’re totally safe to eat, according to the USDA.
But what about the
fuzzy green or white stuff on vegetables? It might make you feel sick, but Dr
Bedford says this is most likely because the mould tastes bad, not because of
any particular toxin.
Before you rush to
call the doctor, Dr Bedford says to wait and see if your symptoms escalate
beyond nausea. “The stomach is a harsh environment, so, for the most part, most
bacteria and fungi won’t survive,” he explains.
Read more: Which veggies have more nutrients: fresh or frozen?
But what do I do if I do get sick?
“It’s very uncommon
that you’re going to get [really] sick from mould,” says Dr Bedford. And in
the rare instance you do, it will most likely be from large amounts of moulds
that are nontoxic. Your symptoms will include persistent nausea and
vomiting, at which point, you should definitely call the doctor. And in other
cases, “you may have an allergic reaction to some moulds, and you may develop
some respiratory problems,” which Dr Bedford says are temporary and treatable.
“I may force patients
to have diarrhoea to try to flush the system out,” says Dr Bedford. Or, he’ll
prescribe anti-nausea medication or induce vomiting.
But don’t worry: In
his 30 years of practice, Dr Bedford says he has never seen anyone die or
require more intense treatment due to mould (though that doesn’t mean it’s
Just take mould as a
sign that your food’s gone bad and move on.
Read more: 7 healthy lunchbox alternatives to processed meat
But what if I just cut around the mould?
Depends on the food.
All moulds have
“roots” that invade foods, according to the USDA, though we only see their
fuzzy discoloured tops. These roots allow toxins (if there are any) to spread
all over the inside, so the best move, according to Dr Bedford, is to throw
the food out regardless of where you see the mouldy patch.
Some hard cheeses,
hard salami, firm fruits, and vegetables, for example, can still be eaten since
it’s more difficult for the mould to penetrate them deeply, according to
the USDA. Though their moulds aren’t any “safer”, you are free to “cut off
at least 1 inch [2.5cm] around and below the mould spot.” Just make sure to keep the
knife out of the mould and wrap the “good” part of the food in a new covering.
Foods that are okay
to eat once you cut off mould:
- Hard cheeses
- Hard salami
- Firm fruits
Foods to throw away
if you spy mould:
- Soft cheeses (that are not meant to be mouldy)
- Soft fruits
- Baked goods
How can I prevent mould from forming?
“Mould growth is
encouraged by warm and humid conditions,” according to the USDA (though they
can grow in the refrigerator too, just more slowly), and when the mould spores
dry, they float through the air and find conditions in which to grow some more
mouldy friends. So, the USDA recommends keeping your refrigerator clean,
keeping your home’s humidity level below 40%, examining food for mould
before you buy it, purchasing food in small amounts so mould doesn’t have time
to grow, covering food with plastic wrap, and eating leftovers within three to
This article was
originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com
Image credit: iStock