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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Cooking and Produce


Mold on Food can be Dangerous

Original article by Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County, University of Missouri Extension

Adapted by Jessica Kovarik, RD, LD, Extension Associate, University of Missouri Extension


You might think that the little bit of mold on your bread or on top of your cream cheese is easily cut away and discarded. What most people don’t know is that, like an iceberg, there is a lot more than what you are able to see.


We think of mold as being that fuzzy green, white or brown stuff growing on the surface of food. However, if you look at mold under a microscope, it looks like a long skinny mushroom. Mold actually consists of root threads that invade the food it lands on, a stalk rising above the food and spores that form on the ends of those stalks. The root threads can grow deep into the food and can have poisonous substances around these threads.


To prevent mold from growing, check food carefully when purchasing it to make sure mold is not present. At home, cover and store the food promptly. Remember that mold spores are in the air so covering food helps protect them. Be sure to use leftover food within three or four days so mold doesn’t have a chance to grow.


If you spot mold on lunch meats, bacon, hot dogs, cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, jams, jellies, bread, peanut butter, leftovers, and soft produce such as cucumbers, peaches and tomatoes, throw them out.


Sometimes, mold can be cut away and the rest of the food consumed. On hard cheeses, mold usually can’t penetrate deep into the product so you can cut off the mold and one inch around it and then use the remaining portion. If there is mold on hard salami and dry-cured hams, that mold can be scrubbed away and then the product used. Mold on firm fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, bell peppers and carrots can be cut away with one inch of surrounding flesh and then used.


Some molds are actually used to make cheese. These molds are safe to eat. Some examples of cheese made with molds include blue, Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton. Brie and Camembert have a white mold on the surface. These are also considered safe to eat.


As most of us have witnessed, mold can grow in the refrigerator if food is left inside long enough. To help prevent mold, growth, clean the inside of the refrigerator every few months with one tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in one quart of water and rinse with clear water. If you have black mold growing around the rubber casings on the refrigerator, scrub that with three teaspoons of bleach added to one quart of water.


To learn more about mold on food, look at the fact sheet developed by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service at



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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