Food Safety and Inspection Service Mold Guidelines: Beneficial Molds
All types of food molds are parasitic. For this reason, food mold cannot grow without first finding a host to feast on. As soon as food mold spores land on a suitable host, the fungi immediately begin to feed by absorbing minerals, sugars and moisture from the host food. Naturally, as these types of food mold feed, they grow and infiltrate the host. As the mold plant continues to grow it eventually matures to a point where it can create its own spores. These spores are then shot into the air as microscopic airborne particles. Once airborne, the spores float until they find a suitable host food and the cycle is repeated.
In 1928, Scottish researcher, Alexander Fleming, accidentally discovered penicillin growing in a Petri dish full of bacteria. Penicillin is an antibiotic that was created from the same Penicillium mold family as the one that produces common bread mold. The variety that penicillin is actually derived from, however, is the P. notatum variety, which is a much rarer form of food mold. Following further testing by Howard Florey, Oxford University professor of pathology, and his coworker Ernst Chain, penicillin earned a coveted and well-earned spot as an antibiotic. Norman G. Heatley, an Oxford University biochemist, also contributed greatly to the development of this wonder drug. Without Dr. Heatley's efforts to isolate the specific antibiotic, penicillin might never have gone on to become the life-saving drug that it is today and presumably will be into the foreseeable future.
Several Types of Food Molds are Beneficial
Muscodor albus, a fungus that emits gases, may protect grapes against another type of mold called, Botrytis. It is hoped that this common food mold will also protect apples from moth larvae. According to Agricultural Research Service (ARS), plant pathologist Joseph L. Smilanick, and his ARS and industry colleagues, through the use of fumigation, M. albus has the ability to fight off Botrytis cinerea, the mold which creates gray mold. Food molds found on cheese also rank high on the list of beneficial fungi. Take, for instance, Penicillium camemberti and Penicillium roquefortii. Both molds help ripen the cheeses that are named after them: Camembert and Roquefort, respectively.
Other Types of Food Mold
Food mold can be viewed in two ways: good and bad. Some types of food mold offer significant beneficial properties, and some types of food mold can cause sickness and even death.
Different Types of Food Mold
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, when food mold is found growing in a jar of preserves or on a loaf of bread, as a precautionary measure, the jar as well as its contents, or the entire loaf of bread, should be discarded. In view of this information, it is interesting to learn that the USDA's recommendation for moldy cured ham is quite different. In fact, when a thin layer of white mold is found growing on the outside of a country cured ham the USDA clearly notes that as long as it is the only type of mold growing on the meat, the meat does not need to be discarded. To be sure, Americans are instructed to check the ham thoroughly. If no other mold is present, use a stiff vegetable brush to diligently scrub off all traces of the thin white mold. Wipe the ham down with hot water and a clean cloth before eating. (Ham should be refrigerated.) The reason for these two very different recommendations has entirely to do with what type of mold is present on each food.