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TEXARKANA, Ark. –
Suppose you want a snack. Nothing sounds better than some of those wonderful grapes
you bought on sale. But, when you go to the refrigerator and open the crisper drawer,
you are faced with a disgusting fur-covered mass where your grapes should be. Mold
has made its home on your fruit.
Molds have been around for over three million years, so the likelihood we’ll eliminate
their presence is slim. And consider what would happen if we did eliminate them. Some
molds perform valuable functions in our lives. For example, they age and flavor cheeses
and they are used in bread making, fermenting liquor, producing soy sauce, producing
penicillin and manufacturing citric acid used to flavor soft drinks.
Despite these good functions performed by molds, many people think only of the bad
things they do. For example, almost everyone can cite cases where mold has hastened
food spoilage. People in warm, moist climates are also very aware of the allergy and
respiratory problems molds can cause. There are even a few molds that, under the right
conditions, can produce mycotoxins or poisons.
The question for you is how can you know if the mold you find in your refrigerator
is a good one or one that is dangerous? Unfortunately, the answer is, you can’t. Your
best approach is to learn and practice some simple guidelines for avoiding mold growth
and handling moldy foods you encounter.
While molds prefer warmer temperatures, many can grow in the refrigerator. Since they
produce spores, which may become airborne, it is easy for these spores to accumulate
in the enclosed refrigerator. You should clean the inside of your refrigerator every
other month with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda in a quart of water. Rinse
with clear water. Scrub any visible mold growth on rubber gaskets with 3 tablespoons
of bleach in a quart of water.
Don’t knowingly buy moldy foods. Examine packages of fresh fruits, vegetables, and
cured meats carefully for mold growth. Check around the stem areas of produce since
this is where mold growth frequently begins.
As people with allergies to mold can readily verify, mold spores are in the air. So
protect foods sitting out by covering with plastic wrap. Be sure perishables are not
kept at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
Is food ruined if it begins to mold? It depends on texture of the food and the amount
of mold on it. In general, a firm or hard food with only a little bit of mold can
be saved by cutting away the mold. Cut at least an inch of food from around the moldy
spot. Be sure the knife does not slice through the mold as these cuts are made since
this is a good way to spread mold throughout the food. This procedure works for hard
cheeses, cured salami, country ham, smoked turkey and firm fruits and vegetables.
With soft foods like jams and jellies, soft cheeses, bread products, and soft fruits
and vegetables, there is no way to know how deep the mold has penetrated; therefore,
the product should be discarded if mold appears.
Moldy corn-on-the-cob, nuts, flour, grains, dried peas and beans and peanut butter
should be discarded immediately. Mold that grows on these products frequently produce
very dangerous toxins.
Finally, if you suspect a food has mold, don’t sniff it to see if it smells spoiled.
Inhaling mold spores may lead to respiratory problems.
Keeping foods in the refrigerator until they mold is never a good idea. Instead, follow
the refrigerator Storage Guidelines on how long to keep foods. You can get your free copy by clicking the link above
or by contacting the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609. We're online at
firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook and Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.uada.edu/Miller.
By Carla Due County Extension Agent - FCSThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Carla Due County Extension Agent - FCSU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854 (870) 779-3609 email@example.com
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
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