It seems like every time we turn around someone is telling us how very afraid we must be. Or is it just me…?
But if you or another in your house suffers from asthma, sinusitis or allergies; or has a compromised immune system due to chronic illness (especially of the lungs), chemotherapy, etc. you do need to be very afraid of a danger that lurks in your refrigerator. Namely, mold. You know, those greenish or blackish spots on top of the sour cream, the nasty grey fuzzy on your tomato.
Mold can also be growing without the telltale spots. Yogurt, for instance, with a swelled container or slightly mildewy or fermented smell or off taste may well be moldy and can be particularly dangerous. And it can literally grow overnight.
Some mold species even produce poisonous substances called mycotoxins. The most dangerous of these is aflatoxin which is principally found in peanuts and grain in developing countries. But if you buy a bag of peanuts and notice a moldy smell or blackened areas on any of the nuts or a foul taste, throw them away! Aflatoxins are nothing to fool around with.
Now, no one likes to throw away food if they don’t have to. It’s tempting to just remove the offending spots and eat what’s left. And sometimes you can do that. For instance, it’s safe to trim off mold on hard foods such as cheddar cheese, just cut off at least one inch all around the spot; but be sure to keep the knife away from the mold so it doesn’t contaminate the rest of the food. The rest of the cheese is fine to eat.
But molds are filamentous organisms, which means they can have long thread-like filaments which can grow under the surface that you can’t see. These threads grow rapidly in foods that have a high liquid content. So it’s better to throw out the whole container rather than taking a chance. The same is true for bread. If one piece has mold on it (and just why is it always just one piece?) throw out the entire loaf.
Housekeeping entails so many things. Keeping the refrigerator clean and organized is just one small facet. And when we’re super busy it’s easy to neglect those things behind closed doors. But dealing with mold is more than just good house cleaning. It can be a matter of health.
Our next post will talk about preventing mold in the first place. It’s worth a read.
Please, as always, weigh in on your experiences, suggestions or–God forbid–criticism.