Mold starts to form on many foods as they stay at home. But do we really have to throw the food away when it gets moldy? Here are some things to protect from mold and do to moldy foods:
Molds are small fungi that live on plants or animals and can be carried by air, water, or insects. Moldy food may also have other invisible bacteria growing along with the mold.
Molds grow best in warm and humid conditions, but molds can also form at refrigerator temperatures. Molds tolerate salt and sugar and can live on high-acid foods such as jams, pickles, fruit, tomatoes, and processed salty meats such as bacon, ham and salami.
Some molds can be dangerous as they cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems in susceptible individuals. Some molds also produce mycotoxins, which are poisonous substances that can make people sick. When mold appears on the food, it does not only indicate that the mold has formed on the surface, but the mold spores have penetrated deep into the product.
Take care to keep kitchen utensils clean as well as food. Mold spores from moldy food can accumulate on refrigerators, dishcloths, and other cleaning utensils. To control or reduce mold, you can follow these tips:
Clean the inside of the refrigerator with 1 tablespoon of baking soda and a liter of water every few months. Rinse with clean water and dry. Clean the black molds that can be seen on the door rubbers of your refrigerator with a stronger detergent.
Keep dishcloths, towels, sponges and mops clean and fresh. If they smell musty, it means they are spreading mold. Do not use things that you are not sure have been cleaned after smelling.
Keep the humidity level of your home below 40%.
When shopping, check before you buy, especially fresh items like bread.
Check for moldy meat and meat products. Some salamis have a thin, white coating of mold that is safe to eat. Some dry-cured hams contain a surface mold that must be scraped off before cooking. Consume it by paying attention to the characteristics of the product you buy.
If you come across moldy food, don’t smell it. Some molds can enter through your nose and cause problems in your respiratory tract. Put moldy food in a small bag and dispose of it in a closed bin, away from children and animals. Clean out the refrigerator or pantry, especially the food storage area, and check for nearby items and foods that may have been touched by moldy food. Mold spreads quickly, especially on fruits and vegetables.
In general, it’s best to discard any moldy foods, except for hard cheese, hard salami, dry-cured ham, and hard items like carrots and bell peppers. Since molds are difficult to penetrate deep into these products, they can be saved if they are not too affected by the mold. To save the product, remove the moldy part by cutting the blade around and at least 2 inches deep, without touching the mold, to avoid contamination of the parts that are not yet moldy. Then store it by covering it with a new preservative.
Reference: Suzanne Driessen and Carol Ann Burtness. “Are molds on foods dangerous?”. Retrieved from: https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/are-molds-foods-dangerous (2021)