How many times have you completely forgotten about things you’ve placed in your fridge? It’s very common- it happens to the best of us. But, what do you do if you come across a moldy block of cheese that’s been chilling in there for a while? Do you throw it all out or cut out just the moldy part?

Unfortunately, determining whether a moldy food is edible, isn’t a this-or-that dilemma. There’s a lot more that goes into deciphering whether or not it is safe to eat food that has been contaminated by mold.

Moldy Cheese

Deposit Photos | How would you know if that moldy cheese is safe to eat or not?

WHAT EXACTLY IS MOLD?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, mold is a common type of microscopic fungus that grows in moist areas. While it is unclear exactly how many types of mold are out there, scientists have identified about 300,000 subtypes of the specie already.

Molds are generally multi-celled organisms and are threadlike in appearance. Many types of molds have a body made up of root threads that spread throughout the infected food, a stalk that grows out of the food, and spores that grow at the end of the stalks.

WHY IS MOLD HARMFUL?

Foods that have been infected with mold can also have invisible bacteria growing inside them, including Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli, etc. Essentially, your food may be contaminated beyond what is visible to your eye. Even if you cut away the moldy bits of your food, chances are that the mold’s invisible and threadlike roots will still remain spreadeagled in your food.

MOLD IS HARMFUL

Deposit Photos | The longer your food sits out, the higher the chances of it catching mold

However, not all molds are harmful. But, while some molds won’t cause any changes in your body, others can, in certain circumstances, produce mycotoxins– a poisonous substance that can make you very sick or even cost you your life.

WHY DOES CHEESE GET MOLDY?

You might be thinking, how does covered cheese even get moldy in the refrigerator?

Well, mold spores that are suspended in air or water can latch on to your cheese without you even knowing it, and they grow from there. Dr. Darin Detwiler, the director of the Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries program at Northeastern University, says that when there is moisture on any food, exposure to air allows for spores to collect on the surface, take root, and grow.

When you see the mold starting to form, the roots have grown strong, and there is no chance of saving that food, whether it be cheese, bread, or some piece of fruit.

HOW TO STORE YOUR CHEESE SAFELY?

According to the USDA, the best way to keep your cheese safe is to keep it covered with a plastic wrap. Taking it a step further, Dr. Detwiler recommends using a new waxed paper or parchment paper every time you pull your cheese out of the fridge and are going back to store it. This will help keep it fresh and as free from air-borne substances as possible. Also, try to not leave your cheese out of the fridge for more than 2 hours at a time.

STORE YOUR CHEESE SAFELY

Deposit Photos | Don’t forget to clean your fridge every once in a while

USDA also recommends cleaning the inside of your fridge every few months to get rid of the germs and mold spores that might be hiding inside. It is best to use a baking soda and water mixture or any bleach solution.