What Happens If You Eat Mold?
If you’re here, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ve just eaten mold. Whether this was an accidental act or a willful one, I have no way of knowing—but here’s what you need to know:
What Is Mold?
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We at MyRecipes are not scientists. It’s times like these that we turn to the USDA’s Food and Safety Inspection Service for reliable information about food science:
“Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant or animal matter,” according to FSIS. “No one knows how many species of fungi exist, but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps 300,000 or more. Most are filamentous (threadlike) organisms and the production of spores is characteristic of fungi in general. These spores can be transported by air, water, or insects.”
Mold, which thrives in warm and humid conditions, comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
It can be any combination of fuzzy, furry, dusty, black, green, yellow, gray, or white.
I Accidentally Ate Mold—Should I Be Worried?
Probably not. If you’ve eaten a bite of moldy food, you’ll most likely be absolutely fine.
Heck, mold is even supposed to be on some foods (certain cheeses, for instance).
Let’s Say I Do Get Sick, Though. What Would Happen?
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If you do get sick from eating mold, you likely have mycotoxins to blame. Mycotoxins are invisible compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of molds.
When your immune system is working well, a small amount of mold probably won’t cause any health issues. However, if your immune system is weakened, ingesting fungal spores can negatively affect the digestive tract, upper respiratory tract, and even the brain.
Look out for food poisoning-like symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Individuals who suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues should watch for signs of an allergic reaction.
If you’ve consumed moldy food and are concerned about your health, contact your doctor immediately.
Can I Cut Around the Mold and Eat the Fresh-Looking Parts?
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but cutting around the moldy parts won’t guarantee that your food will be safe to eat.
The mold you see on your loaf of bread or old fruits is more than meets the eye.
“When a food shows heavy mold growth, ‘root’ threads have invaded it deeply,” FSIS warns. “In dangerous molds, poisonous substances are often contained in and around these threads. In some cases, toxins may have spread throughout the food.”
How to Prevent Mold From Forming In the First Place
Store food correctly and keep your kitchen clean.
Keep perishable food covered in the refrigerator (remember, mold thrives in warm and humid conditions).
As far as cleaning goes, make sure to regularly sanitize your refrigerator, dish towels, and sponges. If a kitchen cloth smells funny or is visibly growing mold, clean it ASAP. If you can’t clean it, toss it.
The Bottom Line
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Mold happens. If you accidentally eat a bite or two, you’ll probably be just fine—but contact your doctor if you’re worried or are experiencing any unpleasant symptoms.
To prevent mold, store your food properly and keep your kitchen clean.