Seems to happen often. Those lovely strawberries you intended to eat are now covered in furry mold. Toss them out!
How Mold Grows on Food
- Unlike plants, molds don’t grow from seeds. They grow from tiny spores that float around in the air. When some of these spores fall onto a piece of damp food or other materials, they grow into molds.
- Mold spores may cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. If you have a strong immune system, are genetically not as susceptible to mold, or are a male with reasonable testosterone levels, your body may excrete the mold from your body without any symptoms.
- If you are prone to allergies or your immune system is not as strong, your body may not be able to take care of it without you noticing some uncomfortable symptoms.
- Some molds, including the ones mentioned above, produce poisonous substances called mycotoxins that can cause serious illnesses in all people. Click here to read about mycotoxins.
Bottom Line on Handling Moldy Food
Most kinds of molds are harmful and you should always steer clear of them. Molds’ job on earth is to break down decaying matter. They produce chemicals that make food break down and start to rot. As the food is broken down into small, simple parts, the mold absorbs them and grows. So, if your food has mold on it, that means it has gone bad. Wrap moldy food and discard it in a covered trash can.
What if a Bag of Lemons or Oranges Has a Moldy Piece?
- Toss out the bad one (using rubber gloves is a good idea). Clean the remaining fruit with a solution of vinegar and water. Let them dry completely before returning to your refrigerator. If the fruit was lying on the bottom of the crisper drawer, wash it with hot soapy water, and let it dry completely.
- Ideally, individual pieces of fruit should not touch each other, since mold is expert at spreading through spores or extension by hyphae (like tiny root hairs).
- Foods with high moisture content can be contaminated below the surface, which may not be readily visible. If the fruit or veggie feels too soft or mushy, the mold has likely penetrated inside it. Toss it out.
More Facts About Mold and Food
- Keep in mind that freezing, extreme cold and heat do not kill mold. These temperature variations can deactivate spores, but when temperatures moderate, the spores can reactive and conture to grow. So don’t try to cook the foods to salvage them.
- And, since mold can grow on cooked food, too, be careful with leftovers.
- The best and only way to really control mold is to deny the spores the moisture necessary for germination.
More information, read about the dangers of mold in peanut butter.