Sunday, July 29, 2007

Moldy Food and Your Health

How many times have you opened up your fridge to find mold has grown on your food? Every year, the average family throws away hundreds of dollars in "spoiled" food due to mold. The average commercial kitchen can throw away thousands of dollars a year.

One way to avoid molds in your refrigerator is to treat your produce gently, Molds love bruises.

Food Molds

The bluish-green molds that grow on breads and on acidic fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, for example, belong to the Penicillium family. Some penicilliums can produce unsavory mycotoxins like ochratoxin, but many others seem to be benign.

Some of these molds produce toxic chemicals, known as mycotoxins.

The same goes for the molds that will form on cheeses. Most of the toxins they produce are unstable or can be removed by trimming.

The bottom line is that if you carefully trim away mold on firm fruits and vegetables and hard cheeses, and if you throw away soft foods and dairy products with any mold on them, you should be able to protect yourself against just about anything your refrigerator throws at you.

Don't try to cook molds away, cooking doesn't destroy many mycotoxins.
The riskiest molds usually do not grow in our refrigerators, but in the fields and storage bins of our farms. If they make it into our food, it's likely to be in corn and other grains.

Moldy Grain

Farmers have long known that moldy grain can be dangerous. Farm animals that eat mycotoxin-tainted feed suffer from conditions like "slobber syndrome" and "staggers." Many die or miscarry.
And it's generally bread or other products made from moldy grain that are responsible for outbreaks of mold poisoning in humans, which almost always occur in the Third World.

Around The World

In 1987 thousands of people in India suffered abdominal pain and other symptoms after eating bread made from moldy wheat. The outbreak was apparently caused by mycotoxins called trichothecenes, which include deoxynivalenol (DON).
An often-fatal kidney disease known as Balkan endemic nephropathy, which affects people who live in rural areas of Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia, has been linked with ochratoxin A, a mycotoxin that can contaminate beans, grains, and some of the meat of pigs hat eat tainted grain. Myco-Carcinogens. Mold contamination reaches the high levels seen in many developing countries. In part, that's because our food production is more carefully controlled. And, we seldom have to choose between eating moldy food and going hungry.

In The United States

If low levels of mycotoxins caused long-term health problems like cancer or weakened immune systems, we'd never know it, because the government doesn't regularly monitor our food for the presence of most poisons that are produced by molds. And that's not at all comforting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does routinely look for allatoxin-the best-known of the mycotoxins-at least in peanuts. But it pretty much ignores two other possible cancer causers, ochratoxin A and zearalenone, and looks for a fourth mycotoxin (DON)


Aflatoxin, which occurs mostly in moldy peanuts and corn, has been called one of the most potent carcinogens ever tested in laboratory animals.
And it's only one of 50 substances the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) calls carcinogenic to humans.

Peanut Butter

According to tests carried out last year by Consumer Reports magazine, aflatoxin levels were lowest in major brands of peanut butter like Jif, Skippy, and Peter Pan. The most aflatoxin was found in fresh-ground peanut butters from supermarkets and health food stores.

Don't eat moldy or shriveled-up peanuts!


There is clear evidence" that ochratoxin A causes cancer in rats, according to the National Toxicology Program. Other studies show that it also causes cancer in mice.

In the Balkan areas where kidney problems linked to ochratoxin are common, people are 28 times more likely to develop cancer of the urinary tract-and 88 times more likely to develop a particular type of kidney cancer-than people living in Balkan areas where ochratoxin is not common.

Although that's not proof, it's certainly reason to suspect that ochratoxin A may cause cancer in humans.

But how much of it is in our food? No one really knows.

In the United States, some surveys have found low levels of ochratoxin A in as much as three percent of the wheat and 14 percent of the barley sampled, although a recent DA survey found no trace of it in 350 samples of foods, including wheat and barley.

Several European countries have set maximum legal limits for ochratoxin; the U.S. and Canada have not.


Another mycotoxin, Zearalenone, which is produced by one of the Fusarium molds, is occasionally found in corn products like breakfast cereals and cornmeal. it causes pituitary tumors in male and female mice and liver tumors in female mice.

Cereal / Baby Food

Fusarium molds can produce dozens of different mycotoxins called trichothecenes. In the few surveys that have been conducted, one of them, deoxynivalenol (DON), frequently turns up at low levels in breakfast cereals, breads, and baby foods.

"DON has been a big problem in wheat grown in the Midwest," says FDA chemist Garnett Wood.

Good Molds

Not all molds are bad In fact, some can save your life.

* Penicillin - Penicillin is produced by two molds: Penicillium notatum and Penicillium chrysogenurn.

* Cheese - Some people think cheese is mold. It's not, but mold does help ripen" some cheeses like Brie and Camembert, which owe their white skin" to Penicillium camemberti. And, that pungent smell-and the bluish-green discoloration-coveted by blue cheese fans comes from Penicillium roquefortl

* Bowm Cinerea, also known as the Noble Rot, helps to produce some of the world's rarest, sweet white wines. The mold infests the grapes, injuring their skins and allowing moisture to evaporate. The result- a raisin-like grape that produces an intensely flavored special-edition sauterne or spatlese.

What can you do?

There are things you can do, here are a few.

1. Do not buy bruised produce.
2. Do not buy over ripe produce.
3. Be gentle with your food. Any food that can bruise should not be at the bottom of the shopping bag or stored under the weight of other items in your fridge.
4. Clean your fridge frequently.
5. Do not put produce away wet.
6. If any of the food in your fridge becomes moldy, remove the food and clean your fridge.


Why bleach is still allowed to be bought in the supermarket is beyond me. Just search in google "bleach dangers" and you will find enough information on the subject to sway your next purchase.

Ozone / Ozonated Water - For Cleaning
I personally use ozonated water to clean all of the fresh produce before it enters my fridge. Also, once a week, I ozonate the air in the fridge. I have been doing this for years with great success. Not only does my fresh produce last longer, my fridge is a much healthier environment for all of my food.

Good Quality Ozone Generators

We supply the food industry all around Boston with commercial ozone units, but we also provide units that are perfect for the home along with training on the units.

Last year we tested our "home" unit by turning it on and just letting it run continuously for over 4 months. After 4 months, it produced the same ozone levels as it did when it was new.

The internet is full of junk ozone products. If you are in the market for an ozone generator, do not buy a cheap unit, they just won't last.

And, since the average home owner does not want to spend $1,200.00 for a ozone meter, how will you know if your cheap ozone generator is working?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell Musty?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions during the summer months. Most people are referring to the removable, window-mount units. The answer is quite simple.

Mold requires three things in order to grow:

1. Organic material.
2. Moisture (water)
3. Oxygen

* After some use, the AC unit will collect dust, dander, dirt and other material that may contain organic material inside the housing. So, you now have 1 of the 3 needed.

* There is Oxygen in the air. Now we have 2 of the 3.

* The AC unit is one big condenser which produces moisture. Now we have 3 of the 3 needed.

So, it is just a matter of time before mold and bacteria are growing in you AC unit.

Although the means of contamination is different, this is common with all AC systems, including residential and commercial HVAC systems.


Window-Mount - We offer services to address mold in these units, however the prices of new units are so cheap, unless you had two units to treat, it may not be worth it.

HVAC - Unit and duct cleaning by a certified professional is advised. If you cannot find one, we can recommend one for you. Just send us an email. Install an UV/Ozone purification system. Email us for more information.

We are currently talking with AC repair shops around the Boston area to provide in-house service for them. Once complete, they will be listed on our website.


1. Make sure the drain hole is not clogged.
2. Follow the manufacturers' recommendations for mounting the unit. If the unit is not at the proper angle, the water may not flow out as designed. This does not mean you should angle the unit. PLEASE, follow the manufacturers mounting procedures.
3. Try to keep the unit clean by regularly cleaning or replacing the filters.
4. Make sure the unit is completely dry before storing it. Also make sure the unit is covered during storage so dirt does not enter the unit.

1. Replace the filters as recommended by the manufacturer.
2. Frequent cleaning of the ducts.
3. We offer the installation of UV and Ozone air purification units. These are low cost, low maintenance units.
4. Proper insulation to prevent condensation.
5. Proper drainage.

AC Unit Placement Issues

Basement Windows - The closer to the ground an AC unit is placed, the more it is likely to become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. A low mounted unit is subjected to dirtier air and debris blown around by the wind. Also, insects are more likely to make it a home.

Dark Side - AC units that do not get sunlight are prone to develope mold/growth issues. We have also encountered moss growing on them.

Street Mount - If an AC unit is mounted near a busy street or traffic area, indoor air quality issues may occur. This is more common with diesel engines since the diesel exhaust is heavy and tends to linger.

Legionnaires’ Disease

CDC States:

What is Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires’ disease (LEE-juh-nares) is caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella. The bacteria got its name in 1976, when many people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion suffered from an outbreak of this disease, a type of pneumonia (lung infection). Although this type of bacteria was around before1976, more illness from Legionnaires’ disease is being detected now. This is because we are now looking for this disease whenever a patient has pneumonia.
Each year, between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease in the U.S. However, many infections are not diagnosed or reported, so this number may be higher. More illness is usually found in the summer and early fall, but it can happen any time of year.

What are the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease?
Legionnaires' disease can have symptoms like many other forms of pneumonia, so it can be hard to diagnose at first. Signs of the disease can include: a high fever, chills, and a cough. Some people may also suffer from muscle aches and headaches. Chest X-rays are needed to find the pneumonia caused by the bacteria, and other tests can be done on sputum (phlegm), as well as blood or urine to find evidence of the bacteria in the body.
These symptoms usually begin 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the bacteria.
A milder infection caused by the same type of Legionella bacteria is called Pontiac Fever. The symptoms of Pontiac Fever usually last for 2 to 5 days and may also include fever, headaches, and muscle aches; however, there is no pneumonia. Symptoms go away on their own without treatment and without causing further problems.
Pontiac Fever and Legionnaires’ disease may also be called “Legionellosis” (LEE-juh-nuh-low-sis) separately or together.

How serious is it? What is the treatment?
Legionnaires' disease can be very serious and can cause death in up to 5% to 30% of cases. Most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics [drugs that kill bacteria in the body], and healthy people usually recover from infection.

OSHA Quotes:
It is estimated that in the United States there are between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of Legionnaires' disease each year. Legionnaires' disease is a bacterial disease commonly associated with water-based aerosols that have originated from warm water sources. It is often associated with poorly maintained cooling towers and potable water systems.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pet Food - Mold / Aflatoxin Poisoning

Aflatoxin comes from a fungus found on corn and other crops and can cause severe liver damage in pets. If your pet shows any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
— Sluggishness
— Loss of appetite
— Jaundice (yellow whites of the eyes, gums, belly)
— Severe, persistent vomiting combined with bloody diarrhea
— Fever
Source: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

In The News

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The FDA reports that at least 76 dogs nationwide are believed to have died as a result of eating contaminated Diamond Pet Foods.
The company has recalled 19 varieties of dog and cat food because tests showed high levels of aflatoxin, a naturally occurring toxic chemical that comes from a fungus found on corn and other grains that causes severe liver damage in animals.

The company recalled products manufactured at its Gaston, S.C., plant from around September to November 2005. Based on sample testing, Diamond has narrowed down the exposure to food produced on Oct. 11, Brinkmann said Thursday.

The FDA and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture have launched investigations.
Customers who have purchased the recalled Diamond Pet Food manufactured in the South Carolina plant should immediately stop using it and return any remaining product to their retailer, according to the FDA.
The range of date codes being reviewed are "Best By 01-March-07" through Best By " 11-June-07".
FDA also has discovered that some of the recalled product was exported to at least 29 countries, including countries within the European Union. These countries have been notified.
Diamond officials say they are doing what they can to help affected pet owners.

Diamond has promised to reimburse pet owners for vet bills and other costs associated with the aflatoxin poisoning, which officials now believe may include pets in Europe and other areas outside the country where the food is distributed.

Personal Note

My wife and I are considered animal lovers. We have worked with the MSPCA for years as foster parents and have adopted several dogs, cats, rabbits and birds. One of quests is to find the best quality dog food possible. We have one dog that suffers from skin allergies. Most of the vets think it is diet related. So far, after 3 years and a dozen different brands of "high quality" and "organic" food, we have not been able to help him. Is this a reflection of the overall quality of dog food? If anyone has suggestions, we would love to hear from you. Send us an email at the following address.

Boston Biosafety cares about the health of your pets too!