Can Moldy Food be Salvaged?

If you’ve ever cleaned out your refrigerator to discover moldy food, your first instinct is to throw it out. However, times are hard and it’s wasteful to throw out food that can be saved. This short guide can help you determine whether any mold foods can be saved.

What Is Mold?

So before you decide whether or not moldy foods can be saved, you should understand a little about what molds are and what they do. Molds are fungi, like mushrooms, that travel through air, water and earth and can root themselves in substances that are suitable for them. They are tiny organisms that can only be seen with the naked eye when there are a number of them, and their growth has become larger.

Some molds are perfectly harmless. In fact, mold is used in the process of making certain cheeses and for baking certain breads. The molds that are harmless are safe for human consumption, but that does not mean that all moldy food is. In fact, some moldy food can be downright hazardous to your health. Some moldy food may cause an allergic reaction, while others produce mycotoxins—poisonous substances that will make you sick. Other moldy foods are hotbeds of bacteria growth and can cause all sorts of disease.

Can Any Moldy Food Be Saved?

While moldy food should generally be thrown out—once you see a mold on the surface, it’s already plenty spread out throughout your food—some foods have a protection that prevents mold from digging too deep in its surface. These foods can generally be saved by cutting off a 1-inch portion underneath the mold. Make sure to avoid any possible mold when making the slice or you’ll risk spreading the mold to unaffected parts of the moldy food. The following moldy foods can be salvaged:

  • Hard salami and dry-cured country hams. These foods typically have a thin layer of mold on them already. These items should just have the surface mold scrubbed off before consumption.
  • Hard cheeses. Hard cheeses have a tough surface that prevents mold from penetrating too deeply.
  • Cheeses where mold is used in the processing. Many cheeses are made using healthy molds. These are safe for consumption. However, if a soft cheese develops a mold that was not used, discard it. Soft cheeses have a high moisture content which allows them to become deeply affected by mold. However, hard cheeses that were created using mold can be saved the same as other hard cheeses.
  • Firm fruits and vegetables, such as cabbage, bell peppers and carrots. These fruits and vegetables are dense with low moisture and don’t make great hosts for mold. It can’t penetrate too deeply in such food, and so these moldy foods can be saved. Any soft, high moisture fruits and vegetables, however, should be thrown away.

Which Foods Should Be Thrown Out?

Anything not listed above should be tossed. However, here is a list of moldy foods which can’t be saved.

  • Lunch meat
  • Bacon
  • Hot dogs
  • Leftover meat or chicken
  • Casseroles
  • Pastas
  • Soft cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Jam and jelly
  • Soft fruits and vegetables
  • Bread
  • Nuts

See more information on the safety of molds on food.


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