You go to the fridge and find that that cheese you were saving has a spot of mold on it. Should you cut it off and eat it anyway? After all, it’s just a small patch, the cheese was expensive, it would be a crime to let such good food go to waste, and your mouth is watering.
The BBC’s Michael Mosley asks, “British families throw away about seven million tons of food and drink every year, enough to fill Wembley stadium to the brim. Most of it is beyond its sell-by date, but how much could be safely eaten?”
Mosley got together with mould expert Dr. Patrick Hickey to find out just what should we do with questionable food. Ignore the sell-by date and consume it? Or toss it before even taking a toxic whiff? In most cases, according to Hickey, it depends on the food.
Hard cheese, like cheddar and parmesan, with a spec of mold can safely be consumed if you cut the mold off, being careful that the knife doesn’t get contaminated by it.) Some cheeses, of course, are deliberately infected with fungi. Penicillium roqueforti gives blue cheeses such as stilton and roquefort their flavour.
But in soft cheeses, unless the fungus has been deliberately introduced, the presence of mold suggests infection by harmful bacteria, such as listeria or salmonella. Always throw that away.
Surprisingly enough, bread with small bits of white and/or blue mould will be “fine, toasted, once the mouldy crusts have been cut off.” But, Hickey cautions “The time you really need to be worried about bread is when it has black bits on it.” Don’t eat that!
You know that gooey slime carrots get when they’re left in a damp fridge too long? Hickey advises throwing them away. Even thoroughly cooked. they can give you a stomach ache, cramps and diarrhea.
Fruit normally lasts better than vegetables because the acid in fruit keeps harmful bacteria at bay. But beware of apples. “Apples will keep for ages,” Dr. Hickey told Mosley “But if there’s a puncture in the skin, fungi can get in. Toss those. There have been serious outbreaks in the past, incidents of people being poisoned by drinking bad apple juice, which contains a toxin called patulin.”
Moldy nuts are particularly dangerous because they harbor a nasty fungus that is among the most deadly toxins known to humankind. The toxin accumulates in the liver and can cause liver cancer. If there’s no mould on the shell and the internal part of the nut is sealed and protected, you should be fine, says Dr. Hickey.
Now find out which fruits are ok for your dog to eat. You’ll be surprised.
Moldy bread and cheese, slimy carrots — should you trash all questionable food or is it sometimes okay to eat?