Don’t worry: Swallowing the fuzzy green stuff isn’t likely going to do your body harm. The most awful part about eating mold is probably realizing you ate mold. Even though it might make you gag, being totally grossed out is typically the worst thing to result. “In all likelihood, nothing bad will happen to you—especially if you have a healthy immune system,” said SciShow host Michael Aranda in a recent YouTube video.
But, since mold is a type of fungus, some people can be allergic to it. According to Aranda, those allergies aren’t often serious, but there have been cases where eating mold-infested food has been deadly. Aside from the allergy issue, the other problem with eating mold is the mycotoxins it contains. “These are chemicals various molds make under certain conditions that are toxic to humans and other creatures,” he says. “For the most part, if you consume a little bit once or twice, you’ll probably be okay. But in larger doses, or over longer periods of time, they can become an issue.”
“In all likelihood, nothing bad will happen to you—especially if you have a healthy immune system.” —Michael Aranda
So what’s the best way to handle moldy food? It depends on the type. Since it’s easier for mold to spread in softer foods because of the way it grows—whether that’s bread, cheese, meat, or dips—it should be thrown away ASAP. With harder foods like carrots, strawberries, or hard cheeses, Aranda says it doesn’t spread as easily, so the mold is probably just in the areas you can see. Because of that, you could cut out the yucky spots and enjoy the rest if you want to—but overall, it’s best not to take your chances.
“If you see mold on food, there’s a good chance it’s also loaded with bacteria by that point, which means, mycotoxin or not, you could still get sick. It’s better to play it safe and find another snack,” he explains.
All in all, if you discover you’re munching on mold, don’t freak out: You’ll probably be okay (mental and emotional scars notwithstanding). Just take a closer look next time so you avoid the ickiness and the possibility of getting sick.
Looking for another way to do bread? Here’s how to make Paleo-friendly bread:
Originally published September 3 2018; updated July 25, 2019.