Summer 2015

Good Spores, Bad Spores

Cassandra Becker, N16, a dietetic intern at Tufts’ Frances Stern Nutrition Center, serves as our expert. 

Previous Next

Photo: istock

Q: If I see mold growing on an orange, can I just cut away the moldy part or should I discard the whole fruit?

A: Molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant or animal matter and can sometimes be seen with the naked eye. These organisms give off spores, which are responsible for their color. While many molds are harmless and beneficial, such as those intentionally grown in cheeses, some molds cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Under the right conditions, a few molds produce mycotoxins—poisonous substances that can make you sick. In many foods, mold invades deep within the food—not just on the surface. In some cases, toxins may have spread throughout the food.

According to the USDA, soft fruits and vegetables with high moisture content, such as an orange, can be contaminated below the surface. Such fruits and vegetables should be discarded in their entirety if moldy. On the other hand, small mold spots can be cut out with a one-inch diameter in firm, low-moisture fruits and vegetables, such as cabbage, bell peppers and carrots.

As a rule of thumb, mold found in hard, low-moisture foods, such as hard cheese, hard salami and dry-cured country hams, can be cut out, while moldy soft, high-moisture foods, such as meat, soft cheese, yogurt, jam, breads, nuts and nut butters, should be discarded in their entirety.

This story originally appeared in the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. Send your questions for future installments of “Ask Tufts Nutrition” to Julie Flaherty, Tufts University Office of Publications, 80 George St., Medford, MA 02155, or email julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.

Top Stories

Shifting America’s Diet

Factions continue to duke it out over what the nation’s dietary guidelines should be, but the scientists have had their say: less meat, less sugar, and please, eat your veggies

Breaking the Veiled Ceiling

Yasmin Altwaijri is blazing a trail for epidemiology and for Saudi women in science

Enough Food for All

The answer to how to feed the growing global population has to include small-scale agriculture, not just factory farms

Feed Your Stem Cells

Is nutrition the future of brain health? Neuroscientist Dennis Steindler says yes

Editor's Picks

Not Supersized, but Still Not Good

A hundred extra calories a day can pile on 10 pounds in a year

Eat, Sleep and Be Healthy

Well-rested adults tend to eat better, study finds

Scared Straight

Inmates take a hard look at their delinquent diets

Me and My Study

Research volunteers embrace life in the cohort

Why So Good?

The science behind yogurt’s aura of health