When it comes to food safety, many subscribe to the old saying; When in doubt, throw it away.
But erring on the side of caution often means getting rid of expensive foods, possibly before you really need them.
Some foods, such as hard cheeses, can be recovered. But some types of contaminated dairy and multicolored stains on soft products could send you to the hospital.
Dr. Keith Schneider, a food safety expert at the University of Florida, told DailyMail.com that while it pains him to tell people to throw away food at a time when grocery costs are higher than they have been in years , “I’m more concerned about telling people to rescue foods that are potentially harmful.”
While you can’t see harmful bacteria like E. Coli growing on food, experts advise consumers to watch for changes in color or texture that could indicate something has changed.
The general rule, according to leading food experts, is to throw away food when mold appears. But some foods, such as hard cheeses and chocolates, can be saved by trimming a one-inch perimeter around the mold.
Mold is a type of downy fungus that grows naturally on food and plays an important role in the decomposition or putrefaction of matter. It reproduces by producing spores that can spread through the air and thrives best in warm, humid environments.
Dr Schneider said: ‘Not all molds are pathogenic. Occasionally, some molds produce toxins, but unless you are a mold expert, it is difficult to know which ones are pathogenic.’
Some molds are harmless and can be removed by cutting the affected area of the food, but other types of mold produce mycotoxins that, at best, can cause intestinal upset and vomiting and, at worst, cause organ damage and some types of cancer.
Mycotoxins are produced by certain types of mold, including Aspergillus species, Penicillium, Fusarium verticillioides, and Fusarium proliferatum.
Certain cheeses are especially prone to producing mycotoxins. Soft and semi-soft cheeses have a relatively high moisture content, which provides a suitable environment for mold growth.
If you don’t store cheese at low enough temperatures, you run the risk of your favorite piece or rind of cheese developing fuzz.
Dr. Schneider said, “If you have soft cheese like gorgonzola or mozzarella, just throw it away because the nasty mold can emit toxins that have the potential to diffuse through the liquid.”
For hard cheeses, such as hard cheddar, you can cut off an inch and that way you can avoid any toxins that may have formed.’
Hard cheeses can last three to four weeks after opening if stored properly, while soft cheeses usually last about a week after opening the package. Yogurt, like soft cheeses, should also be thrown away if mold appears.
Some types of cheese, such as Roquefort and blue cheese, are intentionally inoculated with specific mold spores during the cheese-making process and are harmless.
Food safety experts told DailyMail.com that foods such as cooked rice, melon and hard-boiled eggs should be consumed a day or two after purchasing them because they could cause food poisoning.
A concerning type of mold that grows on produce, Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as black mold or toxic black mold, produces mycotoxins on fruits and vegetables stored in humid environments.
This appears as fuzzy black spots and patches on fruits and vegetables, most commonly tomatoes.
Exposure to these mycotoxins can cause a variety of health problems, including respiratory problems, allergic reactions, skin irritation, and in severe cases, neurological symptoms or organ damage.
Soft breads should not be preserved either. Think white sandwich bread, muffins and bagels.
The most common type of mold that grows on bread is called Rhizopus stolonifer, which appears as white or grayish hair-like spots on the surface of bread and can spread quickly if left unchecked.
It can produce spores that can cause allergic reactions and breathing problems.
Dr. Schneider added: “We are exposed to small amounts of these fungi all the time and generally the body is pretty good at repairing itself, but when you have a large mass of fungi we can get a higher than desirable result.” “. dose.’
Firmer products with peel, such as carrots and apples, can sometimes be recovered in the same way as hard cheeses.
Chocolate, which can also form white flowers, can sometimes also be preserved, depending on the extent of mold spots.
White spots are harmless: they appear when chocolate comes into contact with moisture and affect the appearance of the sugar crystals.
Keep in mind that your chocolate bar probably won’t taste as good or have the same creamy texture.
An estimate 48 million Americans get sick from contaminated food every year. Around 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 people die.
A common misconception about food safety is the importance of the expiration date. A wide range of foods, especially milk cartons, are stamped with dates that many people subscribe to, throwing out products that were probably still good for a few more days.
Milk should be discarded if it smells bad, but Dr. Schneider added that as long as it is properly refrigerated, it could have a leeway of about seven days.
He said: ‘If milk is left in a car at a temperature between 90 and 100 degrees, it may not get 7 days. If you pack it in an insulated shopping bag, you can make it to that date and then some. There are many variables that prevent you from choosing a specific number quickly.’