Toxic Mold Growth in Food

Moldy or rotten food

Rotten sleeper shark meat is popular in Iceland and is harmless. But most of us have to be very careful about eating foods that are colonized by mold or other microbes. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Everyone agrees that mold causes allergy and asthma is some individuals, but not everyone is in agreement as to if toxic molds can result in serious or life threatening toxic effects in humans when breathing in spores from toxic mold.

Regardless of what mold may or may not do when breathed in, there is strong scientific evidence and documented history that shows the harm toxic mold growth in food can cause when consumed. Yet we never think to inspect for mold is the place where it can do the most toxic harm, and that is in our food, or in places where our food is manufactured, stored, or prepared. Homes, schools, and restaurants, all sometimes unknowing serve moldy foods.

I am reminded of shopping for Sorrel in a massive flea market in Fort Lauderdale Florida. If you reside in South Florida you know the market. I found what looked like good Sorrel which consists of dried hibiscus like flowers used to make a healthy and good tasting drink popular in Jamaica and parts of Central America. Upon closer examination I noticed that all the bags of Sorrel at one vendors stand were heavily contaminated with mold because the tea bearing flowers had not been dried out properly prior to being packaged in airtight plastic bags.

According to the USDA, everyone shopping in a supermarket should examine food well before buying it and don’t buy moldy food. Always check fruits, vegetables, grains, and other such products for mold. Be very careful with dried granola, carbo cubes, organic nuts, and other such items in unrefrigerated bins at health food stores. I am also reminded of a long night of severe diarrhea and vomiting after eating such items while on vacation in Sarasota Florida.  Poisonous mycotoxins produced by toxicogenic molds have been found in grains and nuts, celery, grape juice, apples, and other produce. “The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that 25% of the world’s food crops are affected by mycotoxins.”

Most foods you buy at the supermarket will be kept cold and will be fresh and mold-free. Fermented foods like dry and cured meats such as pepperoni, salami, prosciutto ham, and cured country ham, as well as many cheeses, kefir, and various other dairy products, can sometimes have an intentional growth of beneficial bacteria or mold on or inside them. Such organisms have been allowed and even encouraged by humans to grow on such fermented foods and have proven to be harmless to humans when eaten. Foods and drinks with such good molds and beneficial bacterial colonies are often very healthy. The types of molds and other microbes introduced to such foods have often been used for hundreds or even thousands of years. The growth of beneficial molds and bacteria give fermented foods a nice aroma and taste, and aid in protecting the food from being colonized by toxic molds, food born illness causing bacteria, and decay causing bacteria.

The strangest fermented foods are an Asian sauce made by putting fish organs, guts and all in a jar then burying it in the ground for a few months. You may have eating sauces made with this concoction at an Asian restaurant and not even known it. And of course their is fermented rotten shark from Iceland, and rotten fish is eating in Finland, and also by Eskimos in the Americas. It is suppose to be quite smelly and foul tasting to people who have not acquired a taste for it.

What can I do to protect myself and my family from hazardous food borne molds and other microbes? :


Inspect the food and produce you buy carefully for indications of unintentional mold and decay.
Store all produce and leftovers in clean containers so that airborne mold can’t land and grow on it.
Avoid cross contamination, for example do not touch food with dirty hands or dirty utensils then put it in a container and store it.
Make sure food that is suppose to be dry is dry before storing it.
It is very important to store most foods in the refrigerator.
Regularly inspect your refrigerator vegetable bend for rotten and moldy foods and discard such items.
Be careful what restaurant you eat at when you eat out.

Some restaurants with low standards will in the quest for profits rarely throw away otherwise perfectly good food because there’s mold on it. Instead it will inspected by staff, scrapped off, the dish cooked and seasoned and nobody will even know until someone gets sick. Never eat at a restaurant with a history of people becoming ill as it is probably because of bacteria or toxic mold contamination.

If you own a restaurant it’s good business to make sure staff is handling food properly, and have your food, kitchen, refrigerators, and other food preparation and storage areas inspected for potentially toxic mold. It could save a customers life and your business.


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