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. Im 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 food.
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 respiratory distress.
Ive 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 wont 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 and jellies.
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 dont 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 refrigerated.
- 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 problems.
- 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!
Youre welcome, Kathy.
Host: As Nadine just mentioned, you can also learn more about molds by visiting the FSIS Web site at
www.fsis.usda.gov or 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 Friday.
You can talk to a food safety expert by calling the toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. Thats 1-888-6746854 .
In addition, you can visit the governments food safety Web site at
Thats it for this week. Weve 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. Im 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 to
Thanks for tuning in.