Understanding Moulds

traditional-chinese-898567_1920Add to Technorati FavoritesMost people around the world have heard about the medicinal benefits of Chinese herbal remedies. These time tested traditional potions have maintained the one of the worlds largest and indeed greatest cultures for thousands of years. Today, few would dispute the benefits of herbal medicines in the hands of experienced and reputable practitioners.

In the advent of the computer age Chinese traditional medicine has gained a great deal of exposure through the Internet. Now there are a great many companies which sell herbal medicines over the Internet. Herbs, like all other organic substances are susceptible to all sorts of microbial infestations which can greatly compromise the quality of the plant and hence the product which you buy. Herbs infested with moulds, viruses or any of the many types of bacteria can loose most if not all of their beneficial medicinal properties and can even become dangerous to consume.

Herbs which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, like any other other cash crop are grown in fields or collected from the wild, they are then harvested, graded,cut to size,dehydrated, checked by quality control (hopefully), packed, stored in warehouses and finally shipped to the store where you buy them or sent directly to you if you buy via direct marketing routes. As you can see, plants used in traditional medicine go through many handling processes before they become the final product which you but. Every time the plant is handled, something of it’s original integrity and quality is lost. This is inevitable in any industry and each stage presents opportunities for cross contamination if the product is handled improperly. As with any product good manufacturing procedures (GMP) are an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, not all people who market traditional Chinese herbs are reputable manufacturers and great care must be taken in choosing which company to buy from.

Usually, the more high tech the facilities of a factory are, the higher product standards will be. Today, a number of Chinese companies are offering medicinal herbs in freeze dried form The advantages of freeze drying are that the raw materials used have to be of a high standard to ensure a stable end product. Secondly, freeze drying is a great way of preserving as many of the original qualities of the plant as possible. Thirdly, because freeze drying is a very quick process, there is no tome for bacterial or mould spores to form and oxidization is prevented. This means that from a food hygiene standpoint you are safeguarded against such micro organisms forming during usage. Fourthly, Freeze dried products deteriorate at a much slower rate than with other methods that are in use, among other things this means that the anti oxidizing properties of the plant(s) are preserved.

Freeze drying also permits the manufacturer to be very inventive during the manufacturing process. He can make blends that are intended to ensure that you the customer get a guaranteed strength of active ingredient and he can also blend different types of herbs to formulate products to make ready to use infusions for specific medical conditions. In addition, ingredients which make a product more palatable can also be added.

Some of these companies claim to have hundreds of blends in their product range which cover a great many medical requirements. If you intend to use traditional Chinese medicine I would strongly recommend that you investigate the possibilities offered by freeze dried technology.

age-1238316_1920How many of you have been to somebody’s house for tea and been given a moldy piece of sponge cake or Danish pastry?

I must say that it has happened to me, not often, but it has happened. What do you do? Do you remove the mold and leave it on the side of the plate? Feed it to the dog, provided there is one? Cunningly stuff it behind the seat cushions? You’re in a jam and you know it. Those eyes are on you and they want to see your reaction to the cake that you know that you are going to have to force down, mold and all.

You just hope that the mold will not make you sick. You go back home without saying a word and take a couple of stiff shots of whiskey in the hope that the alcohol will kill the microorganisms that you were forced to ingest. Or, if you are particularly bold you might decide to say ” I think I’ll leave that, I think I saw a bit of mold on it”. In which case you will be brought another piece of moldy cake only this time the mold has been scraped off. Either way, you loose.

It always seems that the mold has done you no harm and after ringing the clinic for re assurance you decide to let the whole matter drop. I think most of us have been in that boat, right?

Molds are microscopic organisms which are connected to the fungus family. It has been common belief that molds are part of the plant kingdom but recent research is now questioning that assumption. More and more scientists are now considering molds to be a part of the animal kingdom. Moulds can produce mycotoxins in food.

It is possible, from a food aspect, to divide molds into three main groups. In the first group we have edible molds, in the second group we have moulds which are used for medicinal purposes and in the third group we have poisonous molds. If we were to put each of these categories into three different circles in the form of a triangle and then squash them together so that they merge into each other to an extent if one third we would get a true picture of how molds really act.

Some molds are edible within limits and if those limits are exceeded then the mold becomes toxic. Some molds are edible and yet have medicinal qualities, some are edible, medicinal which also have toxic qualities and some molds are toxic but have some medicinal qualities when used in the right way and in the right dosages.

We all know about the molds that are used in the cheese industry. Molds are used to deter the contamination of cheese by undesirable bacteria as well as for taste reasons. You can eat as much of this moldy cheese as you like and you will not be sick because of it.

I 1990 I remember that we had several cases of a very violent form of liver cancer that claimed the lives of quite a few people. This mold was found to be present in pistachio nuts that originated in Turkey. Most of the people who died from this mold were people who worked in kiosks which sold pistachios. This is one instance of a mold which can infest food which has quite lethal effects when ingested in sufficient quantity.

The rule of thumb concerning mold is that any form of mold that forms naturally on food should not be ingested. Throw the food out.Don’t even try to salvage part of the food. Molds used in cheese and other food sources such as truffles should only be eaten if you are sure the food source is safe. Medicinal molds such as antibiotics are to some extent out of your control but if you know that you have had an adverse reaction to these products in the past then do not take them. Inform your physician about your reaction and he will choose an alternate treatment.

Molds are one of the food hygiene issues which we come across in our daily lives. Some molds which we may inadvertently eat are hidden and by this I mean within various types of fruit and nuts, Apples often have mold in the center where the pips are. An apple should always be cut in half and inspected before eating. Nuts are often moldy also and should not be opened with your teeth. Always open the nut in such a way that allows you to inspect the nut before eating. Do not eat moldy, sunflower, pumpkin seeds or ground nuts. These molds are not good for you.

© 2019 Food Hygiene Essentials