Most people can deal with some slight bruising, but mold is an entirely different story. Mold has roots and tentacles that can reach deep into food, so if there’s significant mold growth on the surface, there’s a good chance that the rest of the food is tainted as well, even if you can’t see it. Harmful bacteria, like listeria, E. coli, and salmonella, can also accompany mold.
Foods You Can Keep:
But don’t toss every moldy item out. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are some foods that, when a small amount of mold is present, it doesn’t automatically mean disaster.
- Hard shelf-stable salami and dry-cured meat products
- Hard cheeses (Parmesan, Pecorino)
- Semi-hard cheese (cheddar, gruyere)
- Cheeses that normally include mold (Roquefort, Camembert, Stilton)
- Firm, dense fruits and vegetables (cabbage, carrots, peppers)
- In these instances, it’s okay to cut off the affected area to one inch below the mold spot, and use the rest of the product as usual. Just make sure not to slice into the mold itself with the knife, to prevent contamination.
Foods You Should Toss:
- Fresh meat of any kind
- Soft cheeses (feta, mozzarella, chevre)
- Processed dairy (yogurt, sour cream)
- Jellies, preserves, and jams
- Soft fruits (apples, peaches, plums)
- Bread and cooked pasta
- These items have high water content, making it more likely that mold spores (along with harmful bacteria) have permeated the entire product. Also, toss out any item that’s been shredded, crumbled, or chopped, since increased surface area means increased risk of contamination.
The next time I get a battered-looking banana, I won’t think twice about cutting out the brown bits and enjoying the rest of the fruit. I’ll save the darker pieces for banana bread.