How to deal with mold and food
March 21, 2008
A little bit of mold on a loaf of bread or on the top of a container of cream cheese can not be easily cut away and discarded, according to Tammy Roberts, a nutrition specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"What most people don't know is that, like the iceberg, there is a lot more than what you are able to see," said Roberts.

Most consumers think of mold as being the fuzzy green, white or brown stuff growing on the surface of food. But, when mold is viewed mold under a microscope it looks more like a long skinny mushroom.

"Mold actually consists of root threads that invade the food it lands on, a stalk rising above the food and spores that form on the ends of those stalks. The root threads can grow deep into the food and can have poisonous substances around these threads," said Roberts.

When purchasing food, Roberts recommends checking it closely to make sure there is no mold. At home, cover and store the food promptly. Of course some molds are used to make cheese; these molds obviously are safe to eat.

"Remember that mold spores are in the air so covering food helps protect them. Be sure to use leftover food within three or four days so mold doesn't have a chance to grow," said Roberts.

If mold is found on lunch meats, bacon, hot dogs, cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, jams, jellies, bread, peanut butter, leftovers, or soft produce like cucumbers, peaches and tomatoes, throw them out. On hard cheeses, mold usually can't penetrate deep into the product so it is possible to cut off the mold and one inch around it before using the remaining portion. If there is mold on hard salami and dry-cured hams, that mold can be scrubbed away and then the product used.

Mold on firm fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, bell peppers and carrots can be cut away with one inch of surrounding flesh and then used, according to Robert

To help prevent mold growth, clean the inside of the refrigerator every few months with one tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in one quart of water and rinse with clear water. Black mold growing around the rubber casings on the refrigerator should be scrubbed using a solution of three teaspoons of bleach added to one quart of water.

To learn more about mold on food, look at the fact sheet developed by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service here.

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