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)

Aflatoxins

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!

Cancer

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.

Tumors

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.

DO NOT USE BLEACH

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?