One of the most common types of fungi found in households, mold can grow on paper, wood, various foods, and even on some building materials. Basically, if there is moisture or water, mold can grow.

And there are plenty of types of fungi you may encounter; in fact, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that there are more than 300,000 subspecies of fungi in the world. That’s also why the mold that appears on a cookie is different than the one growing on meat.

But what happens if you do eat this microorganism? How dangerous is it to our health? Our post covers everything you need to know about mold.

First things first, though…

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What is mold?

Both mold and bacteria can be dangerous for your health – but there’s a difference. For example, molds grow in complex, multi-cellular structures that are visible to the human eye; bacteria, on the other hand, is a hidden threat that can only be seen when using a microscope.

Robert Gravani, professor and director of the National Good Agricultural Practices Program in NYC, explains that molds develop root threads deeply anchored into the food they grow on. These roots grow spores, which is part of the mold we actually see; spores can come in a wide range of forms and colors – and they also encourage transmission from one item to another.

Gravani likes to describe molds as nature’s decomposers – and they’re highly efficient too! As long as it has the proper environment, this type of fungi can decompose pretty much anything.

A warm, humid atmosphere creates the ideal habitat for mold.

But here’s the catch: just because you keep foods in your refrigerator, it doesn’t mean mold can’t grow there too! What’s even worse, you may end up eating certain foods with mold without even knowing!

The good and the bad mold

Perhaps one of the most surprising things I’ve learned about mold is that it’s not entirely bad! Actually, certain types of mold can be extremely beneficial to our health.

Ever heard of penicillin? This antibiotic is literally made from a type of mold named Penicillium!

Additionally, certain hard cheeses are also made from mold – and some of them are extremely expensive as they’re considered to be a delicacy by some cultures.

Now, back to the bad types of mold.

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Some people can develop allergies to mold; however, such reactions appear to the mold found in the environment rather than the one growing on foods.

Those who are suffering from such allergies can experience headaches, vomiting, or even diarrhea. It’s usually easy to detect the allergen depending on the places you visit (for example, old buildings or basements).

Note that mold can also lurk in different areas of your home, especially if the building where you live is more than a couple of years old.

Elena Ivanina, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC, points out that if you have an underlying health condition that affects the immune system, you may experience more severe reactions to such mold than a healthy individual.

Some types are poisonous

Even though some molds found in the environment can cause unpleasant allergic reactions, other types of fungi can be literally life-threatening.

Some molds, such as the ones produced by the Aspergillus species, can cause aflatoxicosis. This rare condition is basically acute poisoning that can damage your liver severely and requires immediate medical assistance.

As much as I’d like to tell you that this type of mold is rarely found, it’s actually much closer than you think. Such molds can lurk in cereals, oilseeds (think sunflower or cotton seeds), spices, and even tree nuts.

Furthermore, some of these toxic molds can even cause liver cancer in humans and there is already scientific proof that they do cause cancer in animals.

So how can we stay safe with mold everywhere around us? Here are some basic rules to follow in terms of food.

How to avoid it in foods

Even when they notice mold on certain foods, some people simply cut off that part and eat the rest of the product. However, Gravani says that it’s just not worth the health risk.

Aside from the obvious risk of allergy or other reactions, moldy foods also have a different taste – and it’s usually not a good one.

ATTENTION! The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends you never sniff food with mold to check whether it really has mold. If that type of mold could cause adverse reactions, you might end up with severe respiratory issues that require immediate medical assistance.


Any cheese that has molds as part of the manufacturing process is usually safe to consume. When it comes to cheese mold that appears on other cheeses, there are different rules depending on how it’s processed:

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Fruits and veggies

Much like cheese, fruits, and vegetables also have different rules in terms of mold depending on their texture:

Other foods

Here are the general rules for other types of foods commonly found in our fridge:

How to avoid it

If you’re keeping a certain food for months in your fridge, there’s not much you can do to avoid mold. The best practice is to eat any food while it’s fresh, shortly after purchasing it from the grocery store.

When serving foods, it’s ideal to keep them covered to prevent exposure to mold that might lurk in the air. Before putting the food away, cover it in plastic foil to avoid any harmful exposure.

If you have canned food leftovers, make sure to remove the food from the can as soon as possible and move it to a clean container. Refrigerate as soon as possible to avoid any risk of mold forming.

As a final rule of thumb, Gravani adds: “Toss out the food when you spot mold as it will travel and invade the rest of your food, too.”

Looking for more useful content? Try one of our posts right here: 9 Surprisingly Good Uses For Salt or 12 Effective Acid Reflux Remedies You Can Make at Home!

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