Moldy food- do you cut it or toss it?

You’re not alone if you can’t resist the sight of baskets of seasonal goodies like peaches, plums and tomatoes and end up buying too much. We know that the season will soon end and so will the access to all this glorious produce. Or maybe, as these days we’re not touching fruits and vegetables that we don’t purchase, there may be a few moldy ones hiding underneath the beautiful offerings.

However it happened, we’ve all experienced the sight of moldy produce – that white fuzzy spot or section that seems to be only on the surface of that peach or tomato.
So what are you supposed to do with it? Do you simply cut away that little bit of mold or do you toss the entire fruit or vegetable? And what about other products such as yogurt, cottage cheese, hard cheese, jams and jellies or breads?

The answer depends on the food product and in most cases, whether it’s a hard or soft (with some liquid inside).

Here’s why.

Some molds produce toxic compounds, known as mycotoxins, which have been linked to a higher risk of in certain cancers in addition to possible negative effects on the immune system. These mycotoxins are not just found in produce but in a variety of food products including cereals, dried fruits, nuts and spices. Even if you’re eating small amounts, but do it on a regular basis over the long term, you’re upping the potential cost to your health. In large amounts, such as in the case of moldy grain being fed to animals, it can lead to immediate severe illness.

In certain foods, particularly soft ones, mycotoxins can seep through the entire food. As a general rule, if the food is soft or is somewhat liquid in texture, if there’s mold on the outside or surface, there could be mycotoxins present. As they’re invisible to the naked eye, it’s best to toss the item. (I know it can be painful to throw out that luscious-looking peach that has just a little moldy area on its surface.)

There’s a reason that peaches and their relatives are called tender fruit. To avoid mold, treat them with TLC as bruised fruits and vegetables can go moldy at a much speedier rate.

If you open a container of yogurt or sour cream and there’s mold on top, you shouldn’t just scrape the mold off and eat the rest. Pitch it.

As for grain products, such as breads, it’s also wise to toss them out. When you’re buying whole grain breads, particularly those without preservatives, check the package carefully around the Best Before Date. Or freeze them when you bring them home from the store.

A particular mycotoxin, called aflatoxin, is common in moldy peanuts and in fact, so common that commercial peanut butter manufacturers are regularly inspected for its presence. That’s why you should refrigerate natural peanut butter.

The good news is that you can salvage hard types of foods that have mold on them. It’s recommended that you cut an extra an inch off from beside the mold for safe measure.

But when in doubt, throw it out.

Examples of these hard foods you can cut include:

• Broccoli
• Carrots
• Cauliflower
• Onions
• Potatoes
• Hard cheeses like Parmesan

Those to pitch out include:
• Bananas
• Berries
• Cucumbers
• Melons
• Peaches (and others such as apricots, nectarines and plums)
• Tomatoes
• Bread products
• Jams and Jellies
• Nuts
• Soft cheeses like brie or cottage
• Yogurt

At the same time, as we are so keenly aware of the cost of food waste, it’s key to shop wisely and be mindful of how we store food at home.

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Categories: Food Safety

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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