Mold is very prevalent in the natural world, which means it is also very likely to be present in your home. It tends to travel through the air in the form of microscopic pores released by a mature colony. Once the spores enter your home, they can take up residence on just about anything. This includes things like your coffee-maker, your garbage can, your bathroom, the closet in your carpet, and even on your mattress!
Mold is particularly fond of the kitchen due to the presence of ambient moisture from cooking and washing as well as the high number of substances that can support it. This might be something as obvious as a kitchen sponge, or a wet spot on the backsplash, as well as food that is left out in the air. Even a simple bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter could become an attractive place for a wayward mold spore to call home!
One of the most obvious examples of mold on food is when it appears on your bread or in your refrigerator. If you have ever accidentally bitten into something that’s been infested by mold, you likely felt a strong sense of revulsion. This is likely followed by the worry that you might get seriously ill.
Accidentally Eating Moldy Food
We understand this concern. So, let’s take a closer look at what happens when you eat mold accidentally?
Right off the bat, if you are a healthy adult with a strong immune system, eating a little bit of mold likely won’t make you seriously ill. Indeed, you might not notice any effects that go beyond the psychosomatic response your brain generates at the thought that you may have eaten spoiled food.
There are certain foods that attract different types of mold and they could have an effect on a young person, older person, or an adult with a compromised immune system. In some rare cases, it can affect an otherwise healthy adult.
Mold On Bread
When we look at the most common culprit of food-borne mold, moldy bread, there is a bit of debate. There are some people who say you should just cut out or eat around the mold and you’ll be just fine.
However, the moldy spot on the bread is just a single mature colony. Spores and indeed smaller colonies are too small to be seen by the naked eye and they could be pervasive throughout a single slice of bread, as well as the whole loaf!
Even a senior technical advisor for the United States Department of Agriculture, Marianne Gravely, warns that the roots of mold can penetrate quite deeply into bread. She also noted that bread tends to be cheap and that it’s far better to simply discard a questionable loaf and go buy some more.
Gravely also explained that ingested mold can potentially cause allergic reactions as well as respiratory problems. In some of these instances even inhaling a certain type of mold as you bring the food to your mouth could be dangerous.
Mold On Cheese
Mold and other microbes like lactic acid bacteria often have a beneficial relationship with cheese. At least during the maturation process when the cheese is still in storage. With a great many types of cheese, especially blue cheese like Gorgonzola, the mold is absolutely necessary and consuming these residual traces of mold will have no effect on you.
Just make sure there isn’t a secondary companion mold growing on the outside of the cheese when you buy it. Also, if a cheese like this has been stored in your refrigerator for a while, you should also give it a close look to make sure no new mold has developed.
This isn’t to say that all cheeses are immune to mold problems. Soft, wet, and creamy types of cheese like cottage cheese, cream cheese, and even ricotta, need to be immediately discarded if you find any traces of mold on them. This also extends to cheeses that are sliced, crumbled, or pre-shredded.
Even a tiny spot of visible mold on a soft cheese might just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. At the same time, cheeses in this condition are likely to also have harmful bacteria present such as listeria, brucella, salmonella, and E. coli. If you end up consuming these types of harmful bacteria, which could cause very serious digestive distress including abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting.
In the middle between hard, fermented cheeses and soft, relatively fresh cheeses, we find semi-soft cheese. Some of the more common varieties that you are likely to know to include things like cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss.
These cheeses offer a little more leeway when it comes to their microbial presence. Indeed, many of them need microbes to mature, and many of these microbes inhibit mold spores from invading the interior. With some of them, it’s common and even expected for there to be a little mold on the outside of the cheese wheel while it is maturing.
In a situation like this, you shouldn’t eat the mold on the exterior of the wheel and it’s advisable to only sample cheese that is at least one inch from the moldy outer rind. If you cut the mold away to discard it, make sure that the knife is thoroughly washed again before you cut another piece of cheese. Also, make sure to disinfect any surface that the moldy rind touches.
Mold On Produce
With mold, the common trend is that it is more likely to develop on softer foods. This means that many types of produce, with their generally high nutrient and moisture content, can be at high risk of developing a mold problem.
Vegetables like cabbage, green bell peppers and carrots can become prone to mold over time. Fruits like apples, peaches, and even acidic citrus like oranges may also be prone to mold. Cherries and grapes, in particular, have certain types of mold that prefer them! It might not even be that the mold started out on them, but that something with active mold spores was introduced to your refrigerator and it spread to the produce.
You might consider cutting away the mold on a high-density food like a carrot. Still, just like bread, carrots are relatively cheap, and it’s likely wiser to simply discard it than it is to risk a foodborne illness.
The larger concern, however, may be that there is mold actively living in your refrigerator, or perhaps that there is a significant colony elsewhere in your house that is providing such a high mold spore density as to affect your food!
It may be a good idea to have a professional mold inspection performed. Sometimes mold can be hiding in a less visible part of your home increasing the spore density in the air, which increases the chances of mold on food as well as your chances of suffering from a mold-related illness.