Will One Moldy Berry Ruin the Rest?

The good news for berry eaters is that the molds commonly found on them “are actually not known to produce toxins, like some fungi do, and so there’s less risk,” said Elizabeth Mitcham, a professor and director of the Postharvest Technology Center at the University of California, Davis. Foods that have been found to grow these more dangerous molds include nuts, grains and apples, she said.

Because molds on berries are usually innocuous, even accidentally eating a moldy berry — though not recommended — would be unlikely to make you sick, Dr. Mitcham said. Also, “you would probably spit it out before you managed to swallow it,” because moldy berries “have a very off, very bad flavor,” she added.

Mold is a common enemy of berry growers and sellers, so it’s not surprising to find it in your berry basket, Dr. Mitcham said. Mold spores are ubiquitous in the environment; they can be carried by air or water and live in the soil of farm fields. The spores typically infect a berry plant’s flowers or fruit and then lie dormant until the fruit fully ripens. Given enough time, those spores will eventually germinate and can spread to adjoining fruits, especially in warmer temperatures, Dr. Mitcham said.

Because mold spores are so pervasive, they’re probably present in small amounts on most fresh produce you eat. “I’m likely consuming mold spores all the time, and those mold spores are not making me sick,” Dr. Chapman said.

Molds become more dangerous when they grow and invade deeper into the food product, where some types produce toxins. While this isn’t usually a problem with berries because of their shape, small size and the types of molds that grow on them, it is a greater concern with larger foods that are moist or have a soft or porous texture, like leftover meats or casseroles, jams and jellies, soft cheeses and breads. If there is mold on the surface of these foods, you should assume they are contaminated within and throw them away, according to the U.S.D.A.


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