The Dangers of Moldy Food

There are many types of molds that show up on foods.  As a child, I remember members of my family cutting mold of bread, which we ate and lived.  I never knew anyone who got sick from it.  But now I have been studying a bit about molds and have some concerns about bread molds.  In an emergency in which we have to make our own bread, it would not contain preservatives and would therefore mold quickly.  Bread that had been made under unsanitary conditions and is stored warm and moist can mold within a couple days of being made.

Some authorities say that to prevent this growth on bread surfaces, the bread can be baked at a temperature of 400 degrees.  Another old fashion method to prevent mold is to add vinegar. Acetic acid one of the main ingredients in vinegar is one of the world’s oldest natural food preservatives. Vinegar contains 5% acetic acid, which kills bacteria and other micro-organisms

It isn’t okay to eat moldy bread even after the mold has been cut off, as surface mold is more than what you see. It actually has hyphae or roots which can penetrate deeper into the food.

There is no guarantee that only one particular chain or type of mold grows on bread. Jackson Kung’u, a microbiologist from the Mycological Society of America, notes multiple cases where humans have eaten moldy bread and either became ill or died from doing so. Depending on the type of mold growing on the bread, it could contain gangrenous ergotisms, alimentary toxic aleukia, Stachybotrys chartarum or aflatoxicosis. These are just a few examples of the types of bacterium or fungi that can grow on bread. Of course, this does not mean that every mold is harmful. Penicillium camembertii and Penicillium roquefortii, fusarium venenatum, aspergillus oryzae and other types of mold are used as food cultures for some foods, such as cheeses, and are harmless.

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While not all bread mold is harmful, it’s better to not take the chance.

Susan Brewer, Ph.D., R.D. a Professor of Food Science at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition University of Illinois states the following about mold safety.

If the foods shows even a tiny spot of mold, follow these guidelines.

Hard or firm foods with tiny mold spots can be trimmed, cut away the area around the mold (at least an inch) and rewrap in clean wrap.  Make sure the knife does not touch the mold.

Trim (Safe)

  • Hard cheese (cheddar, Swiss, etc)
  • Bell peppers, carrots, cabbage
  • Broccoli, cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Garlic, onions
  • Potatoes, turnips
  • Zucchini
  • Apples, pears

Toss (Dangerous)

Soft foods such as cheese slices, cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt should be thrown away.

  • Soft cheeses (mozzarella, brie, etc.)
  • Sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese
  • Bacon, hot dogs, sliced lunchmeats
  • Meat pies
  • Open canned hams
  • Most left over foods
  • Bread, cakes, rolls, flour, pasty
  • Peanut butter
  • Juices, berries
  • Jam, jellies, syrups
  • Cucumbers, tomatoes
  • Spinach, lettuce, other leafy vegetables
  • Bananas, peaches, melons
  • Corn on the cob
  • Stored nuts, whole grains, rice

Now if you are like me you have probably violated some of these rules either by accident or on purpose and lived.  In a real emergency without medical help available, it becomes more important to avoid taking unnecessary chances.  There may be a time when to save your life you have to take the gamble, but avoid it until it becomes necessary.

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10 thoughts on “The Dangers of Moldy Food”

  1. Timely article. I was just having this discussion the other day about homemade bread. Ours molded fast but it is because we kept in an airtight container and it was warm. We now leave it out to get a hard crust and dry out a bit faster. I did not know about vinegar. Will look into it.

  2. Funny, I just watched an Afterlife show about moldy foods last night that followed the life of food while it decayed. And, yes, molds should be highly concerning to us. This is especially true if the power is out and house temps (and humidity) get high… food spoils quick!

  3. how much vineger would be added to a loaf of bread before baking? Does it matter what type of vineger it is?

    1. I think the amount depends to a degree on taste. In a real emergency I think it will come down to experimenting. Use any real vinegar, they all contain acidic acid .

  4. Apartmentprepper

    Good article. I’ve been making homemade bread and find they get moldy after just 3 days, unless refrigerated. Usually toss the bread at that point, but have cut mold from hard cheeses and such. If power goes out, food will mold even more quickly. Thank you for sharing this timely piece of information.

  5. In the “Toss” category, you include “jams, jellies, syrups”.
    Maple syrup can be re-boiled (after skimming the mold off).

    (this is REAL maple syrup, not the watered-down corn syrup kinds.)

  6. Many people may not be aware that mold is a common cause of migraine headaches. Food that is in your fridge for more than 3 days may contain mold that you cannot see. Some chocolates are made with a mold process. The cacao beans are soaked in water for a period of time. Periodically, the mold that grows on the top is cleared off. So after the whole processing of the chocolate, it may be the source of a migraine. I have read that this is NOT how Belgian chocolate is made, making it a better type of chocolage for migraine sufferers to eat. Simply removing mold from a piece of bread or cheese does not make it mold free. You are simply removing the visible mold. The mold is probably growing thoughout but is just not visible.

  7. Plant Pathology and Public Heath:

    The potato famine in the mid-1800s is the best-known example of a fungal plant pathogen’s effect on history (2-4); Phytopthora infestans has recently reemerged in
    the Americas (5). Among the silent problems that have enormous effects on human society each year are crop infections by geminiviruses and tomato spotted wilt virus (6). These plant viruses are transmitted by whiteflies, leafhoppers, or thrips to hundreds of species of plants. They cause diseases of crops and ornamental plants around the world.

    More obvious problems include ergotism, caused by the alkaloids produced by the fungus Claviceps purpurea. Ergotism was associated with the growth of rye, particularly in cool climates that cannot support wheat, and was implicated in the aberrant human behavior responsible at least in part for the Salem witch trials and St. Anthony’s fire (2,7). In the last 5 years, a new plant disease, sorghum ergot (Claviceps africana), has spread north from Brazil into the United States. This fungus also causes disease in Australia, a sudden change from its known occurrence in Africa (8). Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world, with approximately 45 million
    hectares under cultivation for food, beverages, feed, and fodder (8). Ergot alkaloid toxicity has not yet been demonstrated, but potential nutritional and economic losses could have substantial impact on public health

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