Can You Really Eat Moldy Food Like British Prime Minister Theresa May Reportedly Does?

British Prime Minister Theresa May reacts to the Queen in October of 2018
Photo: Getty Images

Have you ever come across some particularly tasty food in the fridge, only to be bummed out that it’s all moldy? Well, if you’re the British Prime Minister it doesn’t faze you in the slightest.

At least that’s the news out of Britain this morning. Prime Minister Theresa May has reportedly told members of her cabinet that when she discovers mold on her jam she just scrapes it off and still eats the jam. Seriously.

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The report comes from the Daily Mail, which should always be taken with a grain of salt. But plenty of others have picked up the story, which admittedly seems pretty gross.

From the Daily Mail (with Americanized spelling):

Her hot tip came during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting in a discussion on how to reduce food waste.

Mrs May said once the [mold] is removed the rest of the jam is ‘perfectly edible’, a Whitehall source told the Mail. She also said food shouldn’t be [thrown away] just because it is past its best before date, saying shoppers should use ‘common sense’ to check if it is edible.

So, how’s everything at home, Brits? You guys feeling okay? Brexit got you down? Maybe you need a break?

Brexit threatens to be an economic disaster for the UK, with just 44 days left until the country is scheduled to leave the European Union. The country is stocking up on everything from food to medicine to body bags as it prepares to be potentially cut off from trade with other European countries. And hopefully it’s stocking up on jam. The non-moldy kind of jam, preferably.

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I’ll admit that when I first saw this story I thought it was a joke. But it appears to be 100 percent sincere. And here’s the weirdest part: Some experts agree with the Prime Minister, at least the in the UK. American experts have a different attitude.

Here’s how NPR explained in 2017 what you can and cannot eat after it becomes moldy:

Some molds, like those used for Gorgonzola cheese, are safe to eat. But the mold dotting bread isn’t a benign source of extra fiber. Gravely says people who eat moldy food may suffer allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Even inhaling mold can be dangerous. To avoid breathing mold, the USDA recommends putting food in a plastic bag and then in a covered trashcan, out of the reach of children and animals.

[...]

Soft fruits, lunch meats and jams also must be tossed once moldy, she adds. But for those who mourn their castaway croissants, there’s some good news: Tougher foods are salvageable even after fungus has invaded. Hard cheeses, salamis and vegetables like carrots, bell peppers and cabbage have tougher surfaces, making it more difficult for a mold’s roots to move through. So you can excise the mold at the surface before it ruins the food’s interior. For such foods, Gravely recommends cutting the mold out with a clean knife, allowing an inch of buffer on each side of a fuzzy patch.

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But apparently they have different opinions on mold in the UK, especially about jam.

Here’s a story from 2011 quoting British experts in the Guardian:

But there’s some good news. According to Wareing, most jam mould can safely be spooned away with no further threat to life and limb, while patulin is destroyed by fermentation. All of which means that so long as you stick to a diet of cider and marmalade, you should be entirely safe.

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So what should you do when your jam gets moldy? Probably toss it out, just to be on the safe side. Unless, of course, your life has turned into something like The Road in post-Brexit Britain, in which case save every fucking piece of sustenance you can find.

Things are getting dire in the UK, to say the least, so it’s probably a good idea to check in on any of your British friends this week. Maybe buy them a jar of jam or two while you’re at it.

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We’re all for being frugal, but we draw the line at eating moldy food. And so do many experts. The American kind, anyway. You say mouldy to-may-to, I say moldy ta-mah-to.

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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog