October 16, 2018
Organic Blue Cheese Wedge

Moldy Food Do's and Don'ts

by Berkeley Wellness  

Do you sometimes wonder if you should throw away food that has mold on it? Can you cut off the bad part and eat the rest? It depends on the food.

Molds are like bacteria: Some are safe, some harmful. The molds that are essential parts of such cheeses as Roquefort and other blues are safe, for instance. But the fuzzy molds that grow on some foods can be toxic. As with food poisoning, the greatest risk is to those in frail health. Molds on grains are generally the worst; others may not be so bad, but it’s hard to tell which is which.

The visible mold may not be all the mold there is—the threadlike hyphae (the equivalent of roots) and mold toxins may have penetrated the food. Mold toxins can’t be destroyed by cooking. Here’s what to do:

  • Don’t buy any produce that has mold on it.
  • Try to use up produce before mold grows. Refrigeration discourages mold.
  • Keep produce dry, and wash it only when ready to eat it. Moisture promotes mold.
  • Throw away moldy bread and grain products, as well as moldy meats, peanut butter, nuts, soft cheese, yogurt, syrups, jams, applesauce, leftovers, and soft fruit such as melons or peaches.
  • Discard small fruits, such as grapes or berries, if moldy. If a few berries at the top of a box are moldy, it’s okay to eat the rest, but look them over carefully.
  • It’s okay to cut a small area of mold out of a large, hard fruit or vegetable, such as an apple, potato, cauliflower, or onion. But cut widely.
  • It’s okay to cut mold off hard cheese, which has less moisture. Cut at least an inch away from the mold, rinse off the cheese, dry it well, and rewrap in fresh paper. Discard heavily molded cheese. Take care not to spread the mold with the knife.
  • If you’re dubious, throw the item out. It’s better not to take the risk.

Also see Food Poisoning Facts.