Thursday, 24 July 2008

Q & A: Should you avoid food with mold on it?

This Q&A from the IHT/NYT

Q. I've been told not to eat food that has a little mold on it because the mold has permeated throughout. Is this true?
A. Yes, mold that is visible on the surface of food is only the tip of the iceberg, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Molds are fungi that have three parts: the root threads, which invade deeply into the food; a stalk, which rises above the food; and spores that form at the end of the stalk.
By the time the stalks are visible, the root threads, called hyphae, are embedded, so it is best to avoid food with any sign of mold.
Some molds can cause strong allergic reactions, including respiratory problems, in susceptible people. And in some varieties, the threads produce toxic substances called mycotoxins, which can make people very sick.
Molds may appear as "gray fur on forgotten bologna, fuzzy green dots on bread, white dust on Cheddar, coin-size velvety circles on fruits and furry growth on the surface of jellies," as a fact sheet from the USDA says. But molds have their good side; beneficial molds make blue cheese blue, and a common bread mold famously gave rise to the lifesaving drug penicillin. Also, molds play a big role in the decomposition of organic waste.

I live in the Auvergne, some of my best friends are cheese makers, and if I were to advise my neighbours at the Thursday market 'to avoid any food with mold on it' (it's called the 'croute', the process of the 'affinage' of the cheese in their 'cave'; the 'bleu' inside their fourme fermiere) they would laugh me out of the market.

And on my Auvergne blog, I've also posted a story today about the terrible influence of Robert Parker on French wines.
'We don't make ink cher Bob', one producer says to Parker in his quest for deeply colored Bordeaux, and the slavish following this American has.
If this type of thinking is reflected in the American 'Slow Food' movement, heaven help us.

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