Name: Heather A.
My family ate beef jerky that was not sealed properly by the
manufacturer and there was green and white mold
covering the jerky(mostly at
the bottom of the bag but lightly all over which we
didn't see until it was
too late and 4 of us ate some.
What are the
possible long term results or
health implications of eating mold/bacteria?
If you have not experienced immediate effects: an
upset stomach within 24 h, or enteritis (diarrhea,
cramps) within 2 or 3 days I guess there is nothing to
worry about. Some pathogens may take longer to cause
troubles in certain individuals (up to 1 week to show
symptoms) but usually other members of the family
would be telling what is going on sooner than that.
Eating molded or otherwise spoiled food is not
healthy, but is not a severe threat either. Most
bacteria and molds will not survive the acid in your
stomach, and the disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria
would have to compete with other bacteria that feasted
on your meal. Pathogenic bacteria may have multiplied
during non-safe storage, though the growth you saw was
likely due to other bacteria, which may have even
prevented growth by salmonella and it's unpleasant
cousins. Apart from eating life pathogenic
microorganisms, the other danger is their toxic
metabolic products. These often cause acute symptoms,
within 12 hours of ingestion.
If you are worried you could, as a precaution, take
absorbing activated coal or absorbing salts that will
bind bacterial toxins. Most people, however, have an
immune system that can deal with these problems. More
care should be taken for young children, elderly
people, pregnant women and people with immune
deficiencies, or those who already have an infection.
Those people have a weakened immune system and will be
more susceptible to infection.
Long term effects are very unlikely.
Small amounts I doubt will hurt any of us but chronic exposure to mold can
be serious. In parts of the world where there is not only poor
refrigeration but also poor storage of food in general suffer from all sort
of higher incidences of food related disease. I will not go into the details
lest I make more of you brief exposure than I should. One thing...the white
mold could have been Penicillium...not bad. The green was much less
desirable ...more likely.
Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Office of Science
Department of Energy
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Update: June 2012