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Scrape Off the Mold or Toss the Jar?

Posted in Food Policy,Food Safety,Our Blog on March 1, 2019

Theresa May is fully jam-packed right now, with some consequential decisions in line covering Brexit and all that, but when it comes to the actual jam – the kind that is made from fruits – she knows exactly what to do. While talking to her ministers, she reportedly passed on some tips on ‘moldy jam’ which you would expect to read in a book of old wives’ tales. She said that she just scrapes the mold off the jam and eats what’s underneath. She also said that people should use ‘common sense’ when deciding whether the whole jar of jam should be thrown off or not.

Interesting thought. But is that safe?

Her advice came during a discussion on how to reduce food waste. Her statement has fallen victim to the scrutiny of the public. But this isn’t the first time a politician’s meal has caught so much public attention. Donald Trump’s heart attack banquet of Burger King and McDonalds and his general indulgence in fast food has often been criticized, too.

A lot of people are grossed out at the statement even though their grannies might have been doing the same to their jam in the past. But a more important question to ask is: whether it’s safe to eat jam this way or not?

Let’s dig deeper.

According to food safety experts, you have to check the color of the mold to find out if it’s okay to scrape it off and eat the rest of the product. If the color is pale blue or white, you can scrape it off and if it’s black, green, yellow or orange, please throw the whole product in the garbage.

Mold also has different types, some being more dangerous than others. The darker molds produce toxins that can severely affect the health of anyone who consumes them. Those who are more at risk include: the elderly, children, pregnant women, and those who have a compromised immune system. If you fall into any of these categories, it is a good idea to take extra care while dealing with mold.

Additionally, iam has a lot of sugar in it, which acts as a natural preservative and prevents nasty bugs from entering into it. Plus, it is usually made by boiling, which makes it an even safer product.

It is not just jam that grows mold on top, even maple syrup can show the same phenomenon sometimes (yes, even 100% pure maple syrup too!). In such case, first do the mold color test and see if the mold is harmless or not. Once that is all cleared up, bring the syrup to slight boil and skim the surface. Pour the syrup into a clean container, refrigerate it, and you are ready to use it again on your food.

Bin or Scrape?

Mold is a common sight in a lot of food products. It can survive in cold, dry or acidic conditions. Once it grows on a product, it can spread through everything from meat and fruit to bread and cheese. As a general rule, softer products are more prone to fungi penetration than those who have harder surfaces. Let’s take a look at some of the common products in the kitchen and what to do when they are attacked by mold:

Firm fruits and vegetables: SCRAPE (like carrots, turnips, bell peppers, potatoes)

Soft fruits and vegetables: TRASH (like tomatoes, peaches, berries, cucumber)

Bread and other baked goods: TRASH (they are porous, so the mold can easily infiltrate their surface)

Hard Salami and dry-cured country hams: SCRAPE (Scrub the mold off the surface. Cured and salty products don’t allow mold to go deep)

Hard Cheese, semi-soft cheese: SCRAPE (like parmesan, cheddar, pecorino, Swiss cheese, Romano, etc. Make sure to cut around at least an inch of the moldy part before consuming it)

Soft cheese, Yogurt, Cream: TRASH (Roots of mold can easily spread through the softness and moisture they provide)

Peanut Butter, Nuts, Legumes: TRASH

Luncheon Meats, Bacon, Hot Dogs, Leftovers:TRASH (They have high-moisture, and therefore, can get contaminated till the surface)

Apart from these general specification, May’s rule about ‘common sense’ prevails. So, if the food doesn’t look or taste like itself even after scraping off the mold or appears to be moisture-soaked, throw it away.

But, as always, when in doubt, throw it out. Regardless of the color of the mold.

Some other food safety myths that leads to food wastage include:

Three-second rule or the five-second rule states that you can pick up the food within the specified time after it has been dropped on the ground. You might have applied this rule in your life at some point of time, more so with cookies and candy than broccoli or cauliflower. A lot of research work has been done on the rule. The conclusion is that it doesn’t matter per se the time something is on the floor, if it is contaminated, the food item will also be – even if dropped and picked up in less than a second.

Another common confusion that leads to food wastage is ‘best-before’ and ‘use-by’ date. The former is the manufacturer’s way to inform the consumer that the product would be at it’s best food quality by this date, the latter, however, refers to that the food product is safe to use by the specified date. The best way to ensure that the food is safe enough to consume is to do the ‘smell test’.

If it’s a baked good like bread, then smell it to find out if it has gone bad or not. It might have lost its freshness but it could be safe to eat. Same goes with the dairy products.

Food wastage is a major concern throughout the world. Global food loss accounts for one-third of the edible parts of the food produced. Therefore, we should be doing everything in our power to prevent food wastage and if ‘common sense’ can prevent edible food from going down the trash, let it do its job.

By: Pooja Sharma, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)