Are the fuzzy tuffs of molds really dangerous?

Your loaf of bread has been sitting on the counter for far too long and that bar of cheddar cheese has been in the fridge for weeks and green, or white furry, fuzzy mold has appeared and the questions posed are why is mold fuzzy and is it dangerous?

Well the answer to ‘why is mold fuzzy?’ is that the fuzz is a sign that the mold is in the process of reproducing. It’s like a microscopic dandelion according to Megan Biango-Daniels, who is a mycologist and a postdoctoral researcher at Tufts University located in Medford, MA, in an interview with Live Science.

The fuzzinesstells you that the mold is in one of its life cycles, has developed spores and is ready to spread genetic copies of itself. Spores are like seeds except they lack the food reserves that seeds rely on as they germinate and so spores need a more favorable environment to propagate themselves, such as another slice of bread or another section of cheese or fruit. Their fuzzinessenables them to be picked up by the slightest whiff of air disturbance and transported to another site.

Are these fluffs of molds dangerous?  They can be depending on the type of mold. Most are not. According to a fungal ecologistwho is a conservationist at the public University of Coimbra in Coimbra, Portugal, Susana Gonçalves, there are about 2.2 to 3.3 million species of fungi, only a few of which cause problems, but she says that only happens in specific contexts.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the context in which mold can be dangerous is when they produce toxic metabolites known as mycotoxins. People can become sick, especially those who have a lowered or weakened immune system and some such as yeast can cause allergic reactions, infections or respiratory problems.

According to Nadine Shaw, who is a technical information specialist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the same thing but adds that one particular mycotoxin called aflatoxin, has been linked to causing cancer. Mycotoxins primarily are found on grains and nuts but sometimes are found on grapes, celery, apples and other produce. Aflatoxin is especially prevalent in corn and peanut crops which are monitored by the USDA snd the FDA

However in some cases molds can help people because they are natural decomposers and are essential in food preparation such as the fermenting of beer, wine, cheese and sourdough bread as well as in the processing of the medical antibiotic, penicillin.

So what should you do if you discover your food has fuzzy mold? Generally, Biango-Daniels suggests you toss it, not so much because it may be dangerous but because it’s not delicious.

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