Got Any Tips on Mold Prevention When It Comes to Food?

Photo: Paeonia/Flickr.

Nothing makes you lose your appetite faster than opening that container of cream cheese that’s been sitting in the back of your fridge for a month only to find a big, fuzzy, green mound of mold resting on top of it. It’s safe to say that preventing mold growth on your food is important for maintaining your health. And not just because of the gross-out factor.

Molds that grow on food are fungi that grow when the food has been sitting around for too long. And inhaling or ingesting mold can cause allergic reactions or respiratory problems in people with mold allergies. What’s worse — mold can also contain mycotoxins, poisonous substances that can make you very sick.

So mold prevention is key. Here’s how to prevent mold from growing on food in your kitchen:

Inspect food at the grocery store before you even bring it home. Make sure that fruit isn’t already molding before you bring it home, and check the use-by dates of items that are closed to make sure those dates are not around the corner. This is crucial to mold prevention since a mold-infected fruit or veggie that you bring home from the store could infect your whole fruit drawer.

Try to scrub down your fridge every month or once every two months with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water. Wipe clean with just water, and then wipe dry. This will help to prevent mold growth in the nooks and crannies inside your fridge.

Also, try not to leave perishables out of the refrigerator for more than a couple hours, and when they are left out, keep them covered. When you’re done eating from the dish, transfer the food to a closed container as soon as possible and store in the fridge.

And what about the leftovers? I’ve got to be honest; I’m a leftover snob — when a food makes its second appearance, I’m not so into it. But my husband — he could eat leftovers a whole week after they were made, maybe more. Well, turns out that ain’t so good. The USDA recommends consuming leftovers within three or four days of when the items were cooked.

And it’s important to remember that once you can see the mold growing on the food, it’s not always sufficient to remove the moldy section and eat the rest of the item. That’s because once mold is visible to the naked eye, it likely means that the mold spores have taken root far deeper into the food than you can see, and in some cases, that can mean that the entire item is now contaminated.

Follow the instructions above and you likely won’t have any mold problems to contend with. If you do find mold on food, especially in an open environment (like on a piece of fruit in your crisper), make sure to discard the offending item and any other items that may have been touching it. Once you do that, clean all surfaces well near where the food was stored.