Opening the pantry or the refrigerator and discovering a moldy food is a fairly common situation in which the question ” What happens if you eat mold? ” arises… Now, you should know that what we call mold is a set of tiny fungi, which can occur together with other microorganisms, such as bacteria. It usually appears with a whitish, greenish or blackish velvety layer that, when touched, releases a powder that is actually spores.
The first thing to know is that there are thousands of species of fungi. Some are harmless or even beneficial to human health, but others are harmful and can cause more or less severe adverse reactions. Therefore, when faced with moldy food, you should always act with caution. In this article we show you some of the consequences that eating mold can have and we clarify the most frequent doubts that arise from its presence in food.
What if I accidentally eat mold
It is necessary to differentiate between the mold that a food has because specific (healthy) fungi have been introduced in its elaboration process, for its fermentation or to give it specific characteristics of aromas and flavors; and those that arise from the process of food decomposition.
For example, the molds found in some sausages or cheeses, such as Cabrales or Roquefort, do not present any risk to health and are proof of product quality. On the other hand, in other foods, especially those rich in water and sugars that have also been kept at a warm temperature, the presence of fungi indicates that the food is not in optimal conditions for consumption.
Therefore, surely you have found moldy cheese, and even tomatoes or muffins. And it is that some of the most frequent examples of moldy food can be: soft fruits (such as moldy strawberries), cold cuts and tender sausages. We can also find mold on bread very often. To help you with this issue, we recommend you consult our post on How to preserve bread.
Now, what happens if you eat mold will depend on the type of fungus that has colonized the food. Accidentally eating mold can be dangerous, because some species generate natural toxins.
So what happens if you eat moldy bread, for example? You should know that mold can also contain harmful pathogenic bacteria. Digestive problems, allergic reactions such as itchy eyes, throat irritation or respiratory distress are some of the most common adverse reactions, derived from the ingestion of mold generated by different fungi and bacteria.
What to do if I eat mold
In general, the accidental ingestion of a small amount of mold at a specific time does not usually cause severe problems. Of course, it is not recommended in any case to eat foods that present mold on a regular basis, since, as we have indicated, some produce dangerous mycotoxins, the prolonged intake of which is even related to the development of certain types of cancer .
If you accidentally eat a small amount of mold, in principle, the alarms should not go off. Ideally, if you realize you have eaten, you should not swallow the food, but rather remove it from your mouth before swallowing it and rinse with plenty of water to remove any remains.
In the event that you have eaten moldy food, observe the possible reactions, such as redness of the skin, itchy eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, general malaise and if they occur, you should go to the doctor as soon as possible to determine the necessary treatment to alleviate the harmful effects.
Can I eat a food if I cut off the mold?
Cutting the moldy part of a food, in order to eat the rest and thus not waste food, is a common practice that can be done in certain cases, but not in others.
Except in cases where mold is part of the food’s own composition, in the rest its presence will indicate that part of the food is not in good condition. Removing the moldy area and eating it may be an option, but it always depends on the characteristics of the food.
Even if you remove the mold, cutting the affected area, the fungus may have colonized the adjoining areas (even if you do not see mold), it may even have reached the deepest parts through skins and shells.
As a precaution, cutting the mold (and the area around it) and eating the rest is something that should only be done with hard foods with little water content : Serrano ham and cured sausages, hard cheeses and plump fruits and vegetables such as carrots or pepper, according to the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU). The rest of the food, for safety, it is preferable to throw it away.
How to avoid mold in food
And what happens if you accidentally eat mold and what to do in these cases. Now we will tell you how to avoid taking it. And, the best way to avoid the risks of mold is to try not to appear as an extra ‘ingredient’ in your food. To achieve this, it is important to follow four simple tips:
- Make a smart purchase : buy fresh products, taking into account the expected consumption. Freeze as much as possible if you’re not going to take it soon enough. Before buying more, take into account the durability of a food for its consumption in optimal conditions.
- Make a good conservation: it is essential to avoid the appearance of mold. Store each food in the right place according to its temperature and ventilation needs and put them in appropriate containers or wrappers. Aluminum foil, film, tupperware, glass jars… each food requires precise storage conditions that you must respect.
- Extreme hygiene : especially in storage and conservation areas such as the fridge, fruit bowl or pantry, as well as on work surfaces and utensils: worktops, cutting boards…
- Act immediately : if you detect mold in a food, cut off the moldy part and eat it as soon as possible, or throw away the moldy food immediately so that the fungi do not spread and affect the rest of the food.
There are some foods that hurt more if they are spoiled by the appearance of mold, for example, ham.