Early stages of mold growing on bread (some white, some blue-green)

Hey Dr. Orie!

I’m really trying to eat healthier this year but I just can’t get to everything before it starts to turn. I only made two sandwiches from the organic bread I bought before there was mold on it. These foods cost a lot so is it bad that I just cut off the bad part and eat the rest?

Healthy Budgetnista

Hi Healthy Budgetnista, thank you for writing me. The truth is that if you see just a little mold on the surface chances are that the food is already decomposing. Food decomposition, or spoilage, indicates that microorganisms – bacteria, yeast and mold – are growing in the food. The colorful and fuzzy spoilage that you cut off has deep roots growing where the food still looks normal. If it is a mold, it may have mycotoxins which are poisonous substances that can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems.

Usually we wait until we see the patch of mold or the slime formation before we convince ourselves that food is spoiled. However, as a rule of thumb, food that has an “off-taste” or “off-odor” is spoiled. Specifically this is an indication that microbes have started breaking down the food and producing volatile compounds like ammonia, amines and sulfides.

Consuming food in any stage of spoilage can have toxic effects that lead to food borne illnesses. According to data presented in the Center for Disease Control’s national foodborne illness surveillance system, FoodNet, children under 15 years of age account for approximately half of all incidences of foodborne illnesses in the US with children under 5 being the most vulnerable (2009).

Of course no one wants to hear “just throw it away” in a down economy, so here are a few tips for delaying, preventing or reducing food spoilage:
• Refrigerate fruit, vegetables and bread to slow down chemical changes that lead to food spoilage
• Invest in a vacuum packaging system to lock out air and moisture which hastens food spoilage
• Learn old fashioned canning or pickling for fruits and vegetables
• Puree and freeze meals/meal starters (my favorite!!)
• Buy less quantities of foods with a short shelf life (yes you may have to go to the supermarket more than once a week)

Happy, safe eating!

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