Great Britain

Does food go mouldy in your fridge? Here’s what will make you ill and what to save

WE all know the problem – rifling through apples or strawberries for nice-looking ones that will not be all manky by tomorrow.

With shortages of C02 and HGV drivers impacting on the state of fresh produce on shop shelves, it is time to wise up to food mould and which sorts are bad — or good.

Bagged items such as salad are now having to be packed with less CO2, though a vital preservative, warns distribution firm Perishable Movements, and the trucker crisis means food sits in storage longer before landing in stores.

But don’t despair — not all mouldy grub is inedible. The furry stuff may look a bit off-putting but there are some products, from fruit and vegetables to jam, where it is safe to just chop it off and tuck in.

Food safety consultant Jill Taylor tells The Sun: “Some mould growths, such as those used in cheese and meat production, add flavour and character to our food, while others are toxic.

“There is no easy way to tell if mouldy food can be saved but I would say one rule of thumb is to look if it has a Best Before date or a Use By date. The Best Before date is about quality, not safety, which means it is highly unlikely that product would become unsafe to eat.

“The Use By date, on more perishable food such as soft cheese, cold meats etc, is to protect you from bacteria that would make you ill and could be potentially fatal. I would not recom-mend anybody eats anything mouldy unless it’s meant to be mouldy. If it has a Use By date, don’t mess with it.”

Jill warns that bacteria such as E.coli and listeria are the real perils, not mould, and adds: “With potentially harmful bacteria, you can’t smell it, can’t taste it, can’t see it. So the sniff test doesn’t work.” Here is our guide to what to save and what to bin . . . 

Fruit and veg

ROOT vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, and firm brassicas like cabbage, have low moisture content and high acid levels, which makes it more difficult for mould to penetrate.

As long as the vegetable is not slimy, the unsightly bit can be cut away and the rest then eaten safely.

The same is true of most fruits. So if an apple, pear or peach has some growth on the outside, you do not need to chuck away the whole thing.

JILL SAYS: “The vast majority of moulds that grow on fresh fruit and vegetables probably aren’t going to do you any harm. When apples or pears go soft or get bruised, it sometimes promotes mould growth.

“But you can cut them in half and eat the other half, and provided it’s not got any worms or maggots it’s perfectly safe. Soft fruits like plums and peaches are also fine if you cut out the mouldy part, and brown bananas are also perfectly safe to eat.

“The one thing to be careful of is green potatoes, because the green on the skin is the poison solanine, which will make you unwell if eaten.”

Hard cheeses

WHEN cheeses such as Cheddar and Parmesan go mouldy, it tends to be skin-deep and not penetrate under the surface.

To be safe, you should cut off at least an inch around the growth, while making sure that the knife you are using doesn’t come into contact with it.

JILL SAYS: “A hard, dry cheese such as Cheddar is generally stored in the fridge to lessen or minimise mould growth, but it has a Best Before date, so it’s unlikely to do you any harm. Mould is already used in the manufacture of a lot of cheeses, particularly blue cheeses, and the white skin on a Brie or a Camembert is actually a type of penicillin that is sprayed on it so it forms a mould crust.

“When you have a cheese-board and you store different cheese in the same box in the fridge, the hard cheese like Cheddar will get a white mould growth which has spread from the Brie, Camembert or Stilton.

“That is perfectly fine, as long as it’s just white, fluffy mould with no pink, blue or green colour and as long as it doesn’t look slimy. Just cut it off.

“Throw that in the bin and the rest of it should be fine. If the cheese is slimy, get rid of it, because there may be bacterial growth and toxins.”


SOFT cheese, including cream cheese, should not be risked after fuzz shows its face.

JILL SAYS: “Because of the high moisture content, soft cheeses are more likely to have mould or bacteria in them that will produce toxins or poisons when they multiply, so they are more dangerous.

"Don’t mess with soft cheeses, because they are more likely to make you very unwell if contaminated.”

Dry cured meats

OME preserved meats such as salami have mould and bacteria added to them as part of the curing process.

So a whole, unsliced salami or similar charcuterie meat with mould on the outside is unlikely to be affected inside.

JILL SAYS: “Unless it’s a pre-served cold meat such as salami, I wouldn’t advise eating it past its Best Before date.

“For normal cold meats, such as a cooked ham, chicken or cold roast beef, if there’s any sign of mould, chuck them in the bin.”


EVER bitten into a slice of toast then noticed the tell-tale green patches on the loaf?

It may not taste perfect but it will not do you any harm.

JILL SAYS: “If it’s really mouldy and soggy it might have dangerous bacteria on it, but if there’s spots of mould it’s not going to harm you.

“The mould is usually on the crust first, so if you’re down to the last bits of bread, you’ve got to go to work and you’re desperate for a bit of toast, cut off the crust and stick the rest in the toaster.”

Jam and marmalade

THERESA MAY caused quite a stir in 2019 when it emerged the then Prime Minister had revealed she scoops mould off her jam before eating the sweet stuff underneath.

But while many were grossed out, our expert advises that this is perfectly acceptable.

JILL SAYS: “Provided it’s not a diabetic jam or a low-sugar jam, that’s absolutely fine. Jam has a very high quantity of sugar, usually the same as the fruit – and no additional water and high sugar levels prevent bacteria and mould growth.

"Because of the lack of water, any mould on jam is probably from someone sticking their finger in it, or putting a knife in it that’s got crumbs or butter on it – that’s actually what the mould is growing on.”


ASPERGILLUS, a mould commonly found on peanuts and peanut products, produces toxins that can cause liver cancer or other illness and are not killed by cooking.

JILL SAYS: “Aspergillus is a toxin-forming type of mould that grows on peanuts and nuts and on some grains as well, if it is not stored properly before the food product is milled, dried or treated. But that’s generally more of a food production issue, and you don’t often come across that in a domestic situation.

“Ensure all foods are from reputable suppliers, stored correctly and within their date code, and this is unlikely to be an issue.”


WHEN shopping for fresh food, advice on the packaging can be confusing, with Best Before, Sell By, Display Until and Use By dates all printed on various items.

But our expert recommends you pay attention to just two of the four.

JILL SAYS: “There are only two date codes that are a legal requirement in the UK – Use By or Best Before. Any-thing else you see on your shopping, such as Display Until or Sell By are only part of the shop’s stock control system.

“So if a product in a supermarket has a Display Until date, and a Use By which is a later date, that tells the staff when to put it in the Reduced section and mark down the price. Providing it’s still within its Use By date, it’s safe to eat or freeze.

“Best Before tends to be on things like canned goods, dried goods, flour, sugar, packaged goods and dehyd-rated things like packet soups, pasta, noodles etc, which are much less likely to promote bacterial growth. So Best Before denotes a quality issue rather than a food safety issue.

“It is illegal for shops, vendors or any food organisation to sell anything past its Use By date but they can sell past Best Before dates – and this is where people get confused.”

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