Is It Safe To Eat Berries If Some Are Mouldy?

Raspberries would be the perfect food if they didn’t go off more or less as soon as you bring them home. Most fresh berries are the same way; the average shelf life of a fresh punnet is three to five days. 

So, if you (like me) are buying for one, that causes furry problems. White specks and blue fur overtake your plastic punnet; sometimes, one berry will weaken and rot, ruining the other berries in a matter of hours. 

Of course, in an ideal scenario, we’d all have access to a bounty of fresh berries close by. But say for instance you’d just checked your fridge only to realise that half of your raspberries are already gone over to the spore overlords, and can’t be bothered to make it to the shop (asking for a friend, of course). What then?

Well, it depends

None other than the Mayo Clinic have weighed in on the topic. Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a paediatric infectious diseases expert, said that the safe point is around a quarter of the soft fruit population: “If more than about a quarter of the berries are mouldy, you’re probably best off getting rid of all of those berries,” she says. 

“But, if the rest are looking healthy, they’re not bruised, they’re not soft and there’s no visible mould on them, they’re probably OK to eat after you’ve washed them well,” the doctor adds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is a little more cautious, advising that the high water content of the berries means spores can spread more easily between the fruits without being noticed.

But even they say that after you’ve thrown the offending food out, checkered the rest for mushiness and other signs of rot, and washed the remains, you should be good to go, they say.

What happens if I do accidentally eat one? 

You’ll likely be fine ― as Elizabeth Mitcham, a professor and director of the Postharvest Technology Center at the University of California, Davis told The New York Times, berry moulds “are actually not known to produce toxins, like some fungi do, and so there’s less risk.”

Plus, she adds, the taste will likely warn you of the presence of foul spores quickly enough to help you spit the berry out in time.

Well, that’s good news for my lunch...