Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety
at home podcast series. These podcasts were designed with
you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and prepares meat, poultry
and processed meat, egg products for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging
from safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry and
processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods safe during
a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” I’m Kathy Bernard with the
Food Safety and Inspection Service. With me today is Nadine
Shaw, technical information specialist from the Food Safety
Education Staff. Nadine and I will talk about mold on food.
Hello Nadine, welcome to the show.
Hello Kathy, thanks for having me.
First of all Nadine, what are molds?
Well, Kathy, molds are tiny organisms that live on plant or
animal derived products. Usually they are filamentous, like
threads with different colors. Many molds have roots that invade
the food they live on and grow a stalk containing spores.
The spores give them the color that you can see. Spores are tiny
particles that are spread through the air.
Where do you find molds?
Actually, you can find molds everywhere… They can grow outdoors
in warm conditions and in shady damp areas; indoors, they can
grow in humid areas.
Can you always see the mold on food?
Guest: No, the only parts that you see are the furry patches on
the surface of the food. When your food shows heavy mold growth;
it means the tiny “root” threads have sprouted deep within the
Are some molds dangerous?
Most molds are harmless, but some are dangerous. Molds may
contain toxins called mycotoxins that can spread through your
food. They can also cause severe allergic reactions and
I’ve heard that mycotoxins can cause cancer.
Yes, some can. Aflatoxin, a type of mycotoxin, is produced by
certain types of molds and are found primarily in grains and nut
crops. They can also be found in grape juice, celery, apples and
other produce. These types of mycotoxins can cause cancer. They
are considered unavoidable contaminants in food and are
monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Are any molds beneficial?
Yes, good molds are used to make cheese. Cheeses like Roquefort,
blue, Gorgonzola and Stilton are created by the addition of
Penicillium roqueforti. The molds used to produce these cheeses
are safe to eat.
Molds on cheese that are not part of the manufacturing process
can also harbor harmful bacteria. With hard and semi-soft
cheese, you can cut off at least 1 inch around and below a mold
spot. Make sure to keep the knife out of the mold itself so it
won’t cross-contaminate other parts of the cheese. After
trimming off the mold, wrap the cheese in fresh wrap. Always
discard moldy soft cheeses, such as cottage and cream cheese.
Can mold grow in the refrigerator?
Yes, even though most molds prefer warmer temperatures, they can
also grow at refrigerator temperatures. Molds can tolerate high
concentrations of salt and sugar; growing in refrigerated jams
Nadine, can molds grow in meat and poultry?
Yes they can. Molds can grow on cured, salty meats like ham,
bacon, salami, and bologna. Fresh meat and poultry are usually
mold free, but cured and cooked meats may not be. Be sure to
examine your food well before you buy it. There are some
exceptions, like salamis –San Francisco, Italian, and Eastern
European types – which have a thin, white mold coating which is
safe to eat; but if you see other types of mold on the product
don’t buy it. Dry – cured country hams normally have surface
mold that should be scrubbed off before you cook it.
How can I minimize mold growth in my kitchen?
The best way to avoid mold growth is cleanliness.
- Clean the inside of the refrigerator every few months with 1
tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in a quart of water. Rinse
with clear water and dry. Scrub visible mold which is usually
black, on the rubber casings around the door, using 3 teaspoons
of bleach in a quart of water.
- Keep dishcloths, towels, sponges, and mops clean and fresh. A
musty smell means they could be spreading mold around. Discard
items you can't clean or launder.
- Keep the humidity level in the house below 40%.
Tell me, how can I keep my food from becoming moldy?
- First of all, keep food covered to prevent exposure to mold
spores in the air. Use plastic wrap to cover foods and keep them
- Empty opened cans of perishable foods into clean, covered
storage containers and refrigerate them promptly.
- Also, use leftovers within 3 to 4 days so mold or harmful
bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow.
What do I do if I find mold on my food?
- First of all, don't sniff it. This can cause respiratory
- And if it is covered with mold, discard it. Put it into a
small paper bag or wrap it in plastic and dispose in a covered
trash can that children and animals can't get into.
- Also, clean the refrigerator or pantry in the area where the
food was stored.
- And check nearby items that may have been touched by the moldy
food. Mold spreads quickly in fruits and vegetables.
- For more information, visit the FSIS Web site and in the
search box enter the word mold to view our factsheet on mold.
This is great information, thank you!
You’re welcome, Kathy.
Host: As Nadine just mentioned, you can also learn more about
molds by visiting the FSIS Web site at
visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative
“Ask Karen” at askkaren.gov. You can also “Chat
live” between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through
You can talk to a food safety expert by calling the toll-free
USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That’s
In addition, you can visit the government’s food safety Web site
That’s it for this week. We’ve been talking to Nadine Shaw,
technical information specialist from FSIS’ Food Safety
Education Staff. Thanks so much, Nadine, for your helpful
information about molds and how to prevent them. I’m Kathy
Bernard. Thanks for joining us for this episode of “Food Safety
at Home.” And remember, “Be Food Safe.”
Well, that's all for this time. Thanks for joining us today
for another episode of food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free
Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That's 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our
virtual representative "Ask Karen" at
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments
Thanks for tuning in.