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From cash-strapped college students to struggling workers, we’ve all been in a similar situation. You’ve been busy taking care of your responsibilities and are looking forward to eating that wonderful loaf of bread that’s been sitting in the fridge for the past few days. But, lo and behold, you look into the fridge and find the first indisputable signs of mold on your bread! You’re not rich and you spent good money on that food, so you wonder to yourself: is it safe to throw away the moldy part and eat the rest?

A little background knowledge can provide some clarity on why mold can be so dangerous. Mold is a multicellular fungus that feeds off of animal and plant matter, and its anatomy is similar to that of a small tree. The typical mold body consists of long, threadlike roots that invade and grow into the food, a central trunk-like stalk, and spores that form at the many tips branching out from the stalk.

As such, when we see mold on the surface of a food, we’re actually seeing the spores protruding from the mold, not the roots that have taken hold deep inside the food. The delicious loaf of brioche that only has a slight green fuzz growing on the surface may be in reality a mold-infested cesspool of poisonous mold-produced mycotoxin byproducts. These toxins can induce a number of serious symptoms such as vomiting, fever, jaundice, and in some cases, death.

If it has color, don’t even bother.

Image Source: Martin Hospach

“Soft” food products in which mold roots can easily penetrate and infest the body tissue are unsafe to consume without exception. Therefore, it’s wise to toss your bread and bananas (into the trash) at the first sign of mold activity. However, “hard” food products such as hard salami, carrots, and Parmesan cheese blocks are salvageable by cutting off a chunk around the mold since these foods are too dense for the mold roots to spread far inside.

The verdict for moldy food? If it’s soft, toss it. If it’s hard, stay on your guard. With something as dangerous as mold, it’s never a bad idea to play it safe. I’d much rather spend an extra $3 on another loaf of bread than $500 on hospital bills!

Feature Image Source: Yummy no knead bread by Matthew Simantov

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