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Name: Heather A.
Status: Other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2002


Question:
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?



Replies:
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.

Trudy Wassenaar


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.
Assistant Director
Science Education
Office of Science
Department of Energy



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