5 Moldy Foods That Are Fine To Eat, and 5 That Definitely Aren't

Two Images of a Loaf of Bread and a Jar of Peanut Butter

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Two Images of a Loaf of Bread and a Jar of Peanut Butter
Cheapism / EM/istockphoto / t_kimura/istockphoto

Fuzzy foods

We’ve all been there—you buy a pack of strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries, and within the next 24 hours you open the container only to find there are a couple berries with fuzzy mold growing on them. Now what? Do you throw the whole package away and effectively toss seven dollars down the drain, or do you pick amongst them for the good ones? What about that loaf of fresh bread, or the old jar of jam? It’s confusing to know for sure what needs to go and what is still safely edible.

To begin with, it’s worth understanding how mold works. It’s not always just furry gray or green dots or white spots. Mold can reach deep down into the food via root threads, invading your snack with invisible bacteria or even toxins, according to the USDA.

As if you’re not horrified enough already, some molds may cause allergic reactions, and others can be toxic. So, back to those berries—are they safe? Read on to find out which foods with a little mold are fine, and when it’s time for those groceries to hit the garbage.

Related: Moldy Baked Goods From Costco Infuriate Shoppers — But Redditors Say This Trick Keeps Them Fresh

A Pile of Fresh Carrots on a Rustic Wooden Table
Vladimir Mironov/istockphoto

Hard Veggies: Safe

The general rule is that it’s much harder for mold to grow roots in hard, dense vegetables like carrots or bell peppers. Simply cut off approximately one inch around the moldy spot, and you can salvage the rest. Just be sure to avoid cross contamination, and keep the knife from touching the mold.

Fresh White Potatoes

Potatoes: Safe

A moldy potato is still salvageable in most cases. Follow the same general rule for potatoes that you would for a hard vegetable by cutting off about an inch around the mold. If the potato skin looks greenish or there’s sprouting, it’s probably best to toss the whole thing.

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Organic Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Hard Cheese: Safe

The French would tell you you’re crazy for questioning whether you should eat a moldy hard cheese, with the answer being a resounding “oui”. Roquefert and Gorgonzola are meant to be eaten with veins of mold and all. However other hard cheeses can also be safe, the USDA says. Don’t toss that chunk of cheddar— instead, cut off one inch (the gold standard amount) around and under the mold spot, then enjoy the rest.

Woman Holding Two Packages of Salami at the Grocery Store

Salami: Safe

A number of types of salami typically have a thin, white mold coating that almost is like dust. It’s part of the drying process. It’s edible and considered a “good” mold. Salami has gone bad if you see those yucky green or gray spots starting to grow, but more likely you’ll notice a bad smell first.

Related: Expired Condiments, Dirty Lettuce, and Other Fast-Food Red Flags

Cured Country Ham on a Wooden Cutting Board
Igor Dudchak/istockphoto

Cured Country Ham: Safe

Like salami, dried, cured, country hams usually have a surface mold on them—but that’s normal. Mold grows on these types of hams during the curing and drying process, due to high salt content and low temperatures, says the USDA. However, you should wash the ham with hot water and scrub the mold off before digging in.

Traditional Normandy French Camembert Cheese

Soft Cheese: Not Safe

Shredded, spreadable, crumbly—if you see mold on any sort of soft cheese, it’s time for the trash. The amount of moisture in these types of cheeses means it’s easier for bacteria to thrive in them. That said, the rind of Brie cheese, for example, is covered in mold intentionally, and is still safe to eat.

Related: Stinky Ice Cubes, Mystery Meat, and 8 More Foods in Your Freezer To Toss Immediately

Top-View of a Jar of Berry Jelly, With a Spoonful

Jelly or Jam: Not Safe

Any speck of mold in your jam or jelly means it has to go. The reason is that the texture makes it easier for mycotoxins, which are poisonous substances produced by some molds, to grow. Mycotoxins can make you extremely sick, and are also known to grow on grain and nut crops, and certain produce like apples or celery.

Loaf of White Sourdough Bread With a Few Pieces Cut, on a Wooden Cutting Board

Bread: Not Safe

Bread is one of those items that always seems to get moldy super fast, which feels like an incredible waste of money if you don’t get a chance to finish it. But if you see any mold on your bread, sorry to say, it has to go. The reason is that the mold that grows on bread, Rhizopus Stolonifer, can make you sick, even leading to an infection.

Related: How Long You Have To Safely Eat Unrefrigerated Foods

Looking Down on an Open Jar of Peanut Butter, With a Knife on Top

Peanut Butter: Not Safe

Again, any food that’s soft and shows signs of mold needs to be trashed. Yes, even if it’s a tiny speck in the peanut butter jar. Aflatoxins are a type of mold that can grow on peanut products and may be a dangerous human carcinogen, so it’s not worth the risk for a spoonful of Skippy.

Fresh Strawberries

Soft Fruits and Vegetables: Not Safe

Finally, the berry question. Turns out at that because strawberries and the like are porous, mold can spread through them extremely rapidly. One moldy berry can easily “infect” the berries around it with invisible mold. However, if there’s truly only one moldy berry in the package, toss the ones directly surrounding it—anything that didn’t come in contact with the mold is likely safe.

Related: 32 Ways You’re Ruining Your Home and Don't Even Know It