For many foods it actually is OK to just cut away the mold and eat the rest, but some molds are dangerous and can be toxic. These molds can cause respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal illness, and some allergies, too. Hard foods that are safe, if you pare away the bad spots, include:
- Firm cheeses
As a general rule of thumb, hard foods are harder for mold to penetrate. Softer foods, like soft cheeses, are easier and cutting mold away does not ensure you’ve gotten rid of the mold. So, if you’ve got some grapes and there’s mold on a couple of them, throw the bunch away. Below is a list of foods generally regarded as safe once you’ve cut away the mold:
Mold on hard fruit/veggies: Cut about ½ inch around the mold to get rid of it.
Hard cheese: cut about ½-1 inch around mold, rewrap cheese with new covering
Hard salami/dry cured ham: OK to use, mold adds flavor to the salami, can scrub the mold off the coating of the ham.
Gorgonzola/Bleu cheese: Cut out the moldy spot.
However, once you’ve cut away the bad part and eaten your fill, make sure to place the food in a new package, not the old package in which it was previously stored. This is because there could be traces of mold left behind that will contaminate the cheese and/or food. You should also clean the entire vegetable bin if you’ve found a piece with mold on it.
Not OK, even if there’s just a bit of mold:
- Brie, Camembert
- Hot dogs
- Yogurt/sour cream
- Lunch meat
- Cooked meats
- Soft fruits/ veggies/ even mold on orange rinds
- Bread/baked goods
- Sliced, shredded, cubed cheese
- Nuts/nut butters
Finally, according to the USDA, you can minimize mold growth by:
- Using leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
- Cleaning your refrigerator every few months with 1 tablespoon baking soda dissolved in a quart of water.
- Scrubbing visible mold using 3 teaspoons of bleach in a quart of water.
For more information on food safety, food safety inspections, and food safety courses, please visit our Food Safety website.