How Dangerous is Mold?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), molds that produce mycotoxins can cause illness. The USDA explains that "mycotoxins are poisonous substances produced by certain molds found primarily in grain and nut crops, but are also known to be on celery, grape juice, apples, and other produce. There are many of them and scientists are continually discovering new ones. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that 25% of the world's food crops are affected by mycotoxins, of which the most notorious are aflatoxins."

How dangerous is mold depends on the amount of exposure and the respiratory system of the person being affected, as not all persons react in the same ways. Signs and symptoms can include headache; dizziness; nausea; eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itching skin; difficulty in concentration; fatigue; and increased asthma attacks. The severity of these symptoms determine how dangerous is mold.

Food mold can be seen on the surfaces of foods, like white dust on cheddar cheese, fuzzy green dots on white bread, furry growth on jams and jellies, and a black velvety texture on fruits. The problem is, the mold isn't just on the surface. If you're seeing mold on the surface of foods, it's because root threads have invaded it deeply; and in some cases, toxins could have spread throughout the entire food. The types of mold most often found on meat and poultry (as well as many other foods) are Alternaria, Aspergillus, Botrytis, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Geotrichum, Monilia, Manoscus, Mortierella, Mucor, Neurospora, Oidium, Oosproa, Penicillium, Rhizopus and Thamnidium.

So how dangerous is mold? Is all mold dangerous? No, not all food molds are bad. For instance, some molds are used to make certain kinds of cheeses - like blue cheese and gorgonzola. The molds used to manufacture these cheeses are safe to eat.

Can Food Mold Cause House Mold?

In the right environments, yes. Mold spores travel through the air, so if there is affected food - say, a piece of moldy bread - left lying on the countertop, as it dries, it will release its spores into the air. Those spores can get sucked into your air conditioning or heating vents and circulate throughout your home. How dangerous is mold depends on the type of mold and how much of it there is.

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Is Mold Affecting Your Health?

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How to Minimalize Mold Growth

When it comes to controlling mold growth, cleanliness is key. Mold spores from affected foods can build up in your refrigerator, dish cloths, and other cleaning utensils.

A recent article published in Woman's Day recommends a few housekeeping tips for moms who want to fight off mold growth, including:

  • Make sure your HVAC system is working properly and your air ducts are free and clear of any contaminants that could be circulating throughout your home. How dangerous is mold can be directly linked to the amount of mold spores traveling through your HVAC system.
  • Sanitize the kitchen sink by disinfecting it with soap and water, followed by vinegar, and finally by hydrogen peroxide.
  • Disinfect your garbage disposal by pouring a drop of lemon, salt, and ice cubes into it.
  • Use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels to clean counters, glass, tiles, and floors.
  • Thoroughly clean your dishwasher every week by pouring baking soda on a wet sponge and wiping it around the edges of the machine, and removing the food or stains that are stuck inside.
  • Decontaminate sponges every night by squeezing out the excess moisture and microwaving them for a minute each.
  • Clean the inside of your refrigerator every few months with one tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in one quart of water. Rinse with clear water and dry.
  • Keep the humidity level in your home below 40%. If you live in a particularly humid area, consider investing in a dehumidifier.
  • Don't buy moldy foods! Examine it before you buy it - checking food in glass jars, looking at the stems on fresh produce, and avoiding bruised produce.

How to Protect Food from Mold

  • When serving food, keep it covered to prevent exposure to mold spores in the air. Use plastic wrap to cover foods you want to stay moist - fresh or cut fruits and vegetables, and green and mixed salads.
  • Empty opened cans of perishable foods into clean storage containers and refrigerate them promptly.
  • Don't leave any perishables out of the refrigerator more than 2 hours.
  • Use leftovers within 3 to 4 days so mold doesn't have a chance to grow.

How to Handle Food with Mold

Buying small amounts and using food quickly can help prevent mold growth. But when you see moldy food:

  • Don't sniff the moldy item. This can cause respiratory trouble.
  • If food 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.
  • Clean the refrigerator or pantry at the spot where the food was stored.
  • Check nearby items the moldy food might have touched. Mold spreads quickly in fruits and vegetables.

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