We've all been there. It's lunch time and your tummy is rumbling. You've got plans for a big sandwich. You've got all the ingredients out on the counter and are just about to start stacking them into an epic meal, when you notice it: bread mold.
You look around. No ones watching. Your stomach rumbles. Before you can say "ham and cheese" you're picking those green and white spots off, while silently praying you won't get food poisoning. The fact that we're alive to tell the tale seems to indicate that this bread mold removal method is A-OK. Unfortunately recent revelations about how mold grows on bread and other foods suggests we should abandon this practice.
The problem with cutting away visible bread mold is that all of the mold isn't visible. Bread mold "grows in strands called hyphae that aren’t visible to the naked eye. So if the food is soft and porous, that mold could be spreading its nasty tendrils throughout," explains Consumerist.com.
Even more frightening is that by the time you can see bread mold, it's likely that those scary tendrils will have infiltrated the entire product. "When a food shows heavy mold growth, 'root' threads have invaded it deeply. In dangerous molds, poisonous substances are often contained in and around these threads. In some cases, toxins may have spread throughout the food," states the USDA's mold page. Eating food infested with mold can cause "allergic reactions and respiratory problems. And a few molds, in the right conditions, produce "mycotoxins."
Of course bread mold isn't the only type of mold, and there actually are some foods that can't be invaded in this way. The rule of thumb for deciding whether to cut off the mold or toss the item comes down to feeling. If the food is firm and the mold is highly localized, cutting is probably ok. If the food is soft or very porous, it's better to toss the entire thing.
According to food safety experts, hard salami and dry-cured country hams, hard cheeses (made with or without mold), and firm fruits and vegetables (think cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, etc.), is OK to eat after cutting off mold. Yogurt, sour cream, soft cheeses, jams and jellies, soft fruits and vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, peaches, berries, etc.), bread and baked goods, legumes and nut butters, deli meats, bacon, hot dogs, and cooked leftovers are all a health risk if eaten after mold appears. Just toss 'em.
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