Dangers of mold lurking in food

Ren Hanzhang
DURING the hottest and wettest days of the year, molds may easily contaminate foods and inflict great harm unless they are carefully prepared and stored.
Ren Hanzhang
Zhou Minjie / SHINE

DURING the hottest and wettest days of the year, molds may easily contaminate foods and inflict great harm unless they are carefully prepared and stored.

Rapid reproduction of filamentous fungi causes food and other organic materials to go moldy, often producing toxic compounds. Aflatoxin, the most deadly toxins secreted by molds, can be found in animals, plants, and soil. When ingested in large quantities, the toxin may lead to acute hepatitis and hemorrhagic necrosis, or in other words, infections in the liver and bleeding that destroy tissues. When consumed in miniscule amounts for a prolonged period of time, aflatoxin impedes human growth and causes fibrotic lesions and cancer, damaging various body parts.

Unfortunately, toxins produced by molds can stand a wide range of environmental conditions and can hardly be neutralized by heat. A family stove can kill the filamentous fungi but often fails to eliminate the toxin secreted by the microbes. Reheating mildewed foods proves useless, and even if just part of the food appears moldy, the entire piece must be discarded.

According to Gu Zhenghua, chief of the Shanghai Food Safety Association, the rate of mold growth is determined by the available nutrients, temperature, and moisture. Foods containing a lot of proteins and carbohydrates can provide large amounts of energy to the harmful microbes and should be consumed quickly especially in hot and wet weather.

Mold grows particularly well when the temperature soars above 30℃. Therefore, meteorological authorities have increased the molding index from Level II in late June, to Level III in July.

Mildew threatens all food with water content over 10 percent, so one had better seal all unfinished meals and place them in the refrigerator. With appropriate equipment, one can also pump out the air in the food container and deprive the mold of oxygen.


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