Food and Nutrition

Here’s What’s *Actually* Going to Happen to You if You Accidentally Eat a Bite of Moldy Bread

Tehrene Firman

Photo: Getty Images/Eldad Carin
Choosing a healthy loaf of bread—like those deliciously seedy sprouted options—is always a great idea: they're loaded with better-for-you ingredients that up your daily protein intake and help you cut down on sugar. The only problem? Since they contain fewer preservatives, they don't last as long—and accidentally taking a big bite of a PB&M sandwich (you know, peanut butter and mold) happens to the best of us. So BIG yikes, is eating moldy bread a 911-worthy offense?

Don't worry: Swallowing the fuzzy green stuff isn't likely going to do your body harm. The most awful part about eating mold is probably realizing you ate mold. Even though it might make you gag, being totally grossed out is typically the worst thing to result. "In all likelihood, nothing bad will happen to you—especially if you have a healthy immune system," said SciShow host Michael Aranda in a YouTube video.

But, since mold is a type of fungus, some people can be allergic to it. According to Aranda, those allergies aren't often serious, but there have been cases where eating mold-infested food has been deadly. Aside from the allergy issue, the other problem with eating mold is the mycotoxins it contains. "These are chemicals various molds make under certain conditions that are toxic to humans and other creatures," he says. "For the most part, if you consume a little bit once or twice, you'll probably be okay. But in larger doses, or over longer periods of time, they can become an issue."

"In all likelihood, nothing bad will happen to you—especially if you have a healthy immune system." —Michael Aranda

How to handle moldy food

So what's the best way to handle moldy food? It depends on the type. Since it's easier for mold to spread in softer foods because of the way it grows—whether that's bread, cheese, meat, or dips—it should be thrown away ASAP. With harder foods like carrots, strawberries, or hard cheeses, Aranda says it doesn't spread as easily, so the mold is probably just in the areas you can see. Because of that, you could cut out the yucky spots and enjoy the rest if you want to—but overall, it's best not to take your chances.

"If you see mold on food, there's a good chance it's also loaded with bacteria by that point, which means, mycotoxin or not, you could still get sick. It's better to play it safe and find another snack," he explains.

Looking for another way to do bread? Here's how to make Paleo-friendly bread:

How to make your bread last longer

Of course, the best thing you can do is prevent mold from forming on your bread in the first place—part of which comes down to storage. "The best place to store bread is in a cool, dry place in your kitchen," registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD, says. "This is where bread boxes come in handy since they only allow a small amount of air to circulate, keeping the bread from molding." She adds that if your counter space is limited, a cabinet will work, too. "When storing bread in a breadbox, cabinet, or drawer, just make sure the location is not near a heat-producing appliance," Rifkin says. "Placing your bread on top of a fridge or next to the stovetop that produces heat is a sure way to increase mold production."

If you want to have on hand a bread that will last longer than a couple of days, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple ($17) author and The Clever Carrot creator Emilie Raffa says to go for sourdough. "The naturally occurring enzymes in sourdough act as a natural preservative, keeping homemade bread fresher for longer. The addition of fat also helps," she says.

Rifkin says that another way to keep mold from sprouting on your bread as easily is to store it in the freezer. "You can thaw individual slices of bread overnight in the fridge before you plan to use the next day," she says. Raffa cosigns the freezer as a good place to store bread you aren't going to eat right away. "If you’re worried about mold, waste, or storage options, go small: cut your recipes in half and freeze whatever you’re not using to enjoy at a later date," she says.

If your bread is stale but hasn't started getting moldy yet, both experts say not to throw it out just yet. "If your bread has become stale, you can toast it then pulse in a food processor to create breadcrumbs to use in recipes," Rifkin says. She also likes using stale bread to make croutons by cutting it into cubes, tossing it with olive oil, and baking in the oven.

All these tips can help your bread last longer and prevent mold from forming as quickly, but if you do discover you're munching on mold, don't freak out: You'll probably be okay (mental and emotional scars notwithstanding). Just take a closer look next time so you avoid the ickiness and the possibility of getting sick.

Originally published September 3 2018.

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