Can I Just Chop off the Moldy Bit?

In this edition of It’s Not a Stupid Question, we discover that there’s more to mold than just that visible bit of green fuzz.


When you’re hungry, you’re hungry, and sometimes that means tearing off the patch of green mold growing on a slice of bread in order to make yourself a sandwich. But is this really getting rid of the mold, or should you consider the entire slice a goner when even just a little fuzz shows up on the surface? According to the experts: Prepare to throw out everything in your pantry.

Those green (possibly furry) patches on the surface of bread, cheese or old fruit are spores that allow the mold to reproduce, but like plants, mold has roots and branches that are tough to see and oftentimes burrow much deeper into the food. This means slicing off the colorful spores growing on the outside of the food won’t save you from eating a bunch of fungus. This doesn’t mean you need to run off to the emergency room if you’ve ever eaten a chunk of cheese after chopping off just the moldy bit, as you’ll digest it the way you would any other food so long as you have even a functioning immune system.

That said, eating mold certainly isn’t good for you. It can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat if you’re allergic to it, and although common bread mold isn’t especially harmful, there are dangerous molds out there—grain and nut crops are susceptible to molds that produce poisonous substances called mycotoxins, the worst of which, aflatoxin, can cause cancer according to the USDA. Chances are, however, these more precarious molds never make it to the bread in your pantry or the cheese in your fridge, as they’re monitored by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the USDA.

Even though the mold growing on the food in your kitchen probably won’t do you too much damage, it’s best to just avoid it altogether, so here’s some simple steps to prevent mold formation:

  1. Securely cover foods in the fridge (with plastic wrap or Tupperware).
  2. Eat all leftovers within four days.
  3. Don’t leave perishable food out for more than two hours.

Alternatively, just dramatically increase your sandwich intake.