Eww gross! Food from a dumpster, thats disgusting!
Well not really. But if you are thinking about Dumpster Diving for a free meal, I suggest you read this post, which concerns safety issues of Mold and Mycotoxins.
I write constantly about how much food I salvage from supermarket oversupply, how wonderfully fresh and wholesome the condition of the food is and I may lead you into believing dumpster food comes without any precautions.
But the truth is there are a few rules you should abide by when deciding what to eat and what to throw. The rule of this post is the dangers of mold and mycotoxins on fruit and vegetables.
Often I pick fruit and vegetables from organic bins. These plant-based foods are not sealed in plastic and are mixed with all sorts of organic material in different stages of their lifecycle. Therefore the really great fresh looking fruit and vegetables I pick out of the bins have more than likely been in contact with fruit and vegetable that are wilted, old and growing mold.
Often packaged fruit and vegetables are thrown out because one has managed to become bruised or squish, therefore making the package unsaleable. This is most common with grapes, one or two bad grapes will make a 1 kilogram bag unpalatable to the consumer and thus thrown into the dumpster.
In either case is important to wash the good fruit and vegetable as soon as you get home. I wash only in tap water, as that seems to do the trick (although I know of people who use vinegar and even a very diluted bleach).
Any contact with has mold will contaminate your food over a short period of time (usually 24 hours), so you need to wash and clean your organic items as soon as you get back from your dive. It doesn’t matter if you have been out all night and your tired and would rather do it in the morning, just do it. Mold waits for no one.
Bruising is not dangerous to your health. You can eat any bruised item you like. Choosing to keep fruit and veg with cuts in their skin is a personal choice. I will often compost split skinned fruit and veg if they are not from a bin that is purely organic. This is because the cuts may absorb pathogens and toxins from other products.
The bruises and the cuts are the areas where mold is going to take root and grow. So you need to remove the damaged pieces quickly.
In the picture you can see the before and after of dumpster carrots. I have skinned the carrots and cut the bruises out. The remainder of the carrot is perfectly healthy and ready to eat ( now that they have been skinned and dissected).
Note: I chopped these carrots into smaller pieces and then froze them. I had about 1 kg in total, so I was not ready to eat them all in one sitting. 🙂
The mold is easy to spot. Take a look at the strawberry below, clearly the mold has taken root and has infested the berry so much the food is useless and actually dangerous to eat.
The reason why mold is bad is the toxin it releases while feeding on the strawberry. This is known as mycotoxin and is a nasty by-product that can make you very sick.
Any fruit or vegetable with fur should be discarded. Some websites say you can cut an inch into the fruit to get rid of the mold (as the mold sends down tendrils into the flesh), but personally I feel with the amount of perfectly good organic products I find in dumpsters, I can afford to be fussy and if there looks to even be a hint of mold, it gets thrown onto the compost.
For more information on Mold and Mycotoxin, the most reliable source is the World Health Organization website.
Loxley Smithett earthknight.org