Although some molds cause no adverse reactions when they are eaten, others may cause respiratory issues or severe allergic reactions. Additionally, some molds produce dangerous mycotoxins that can make people ill, according to the USDA.
Different types of mold may look like green dots, gray fur, white dust or round, velvet-like patches on food. The USDA does not recommend cutting the moldy portion off food because the visible mold is only a small portion of the plant itself. The invisible roots typically thread deep into the food, sometimes affecting the entire dish. The growth of mold can be minimized by keeping dishcloths and sponges disinfected and cleaning the refrigerator with baking soda every few months to eliminate mold spores.
Hard varieties of cheese such as cheddar are safe as long as an extra one inch of cheese is cut off all the way around the mold. Shredded cheeses, crumbled cheeses and soft varieties such as cottage cheese should be discarded when mold appears. In addition to the danger presented by the mold itself, harmful bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and brucella can grow in the same conditions. The Mayo Clinic advises individuals to discard any type of moldy cheese that they are unsure about.