There comes a time in everyone’s life when we leave the house and start to learn how to live on their own. An inevitable part of this journey is leaving food unprotected in the fridge or pantry for too long, creating something that looks like it came out of a science fiction movie and smells like it came from a horror movie. What you are witnessing is mold, which could have some serious effects on your choice of survival foods.
The reason that mold smells so bad and would make you really sick if you were to eat that piece of bread/pizza/whatever is because different molds produce different sorts of chemicals through their metabolism. Some of these are poisons known as mycotoins. Penicillin, the first great antibiotic is a mycotoxin, incredibly deadly to bacteria which it would compete with for food. But there are also mycotoxins that affect human beings.
One of the most common is a mold called fusarium. Fusarium, like most molds, prefers dark, damp places which is why it shows up in a lot of grains. When grains are in silage, as they are in large agrobusiness farms, it is the perfect condition for molds like Fusarium to grow. Studies have shown that almost all corn and a good amount of wheat in the US has detectable levels of tricothesenses, the mycotoxin created by fusarium mold.
Is this really so bad though? What’s wrong with a little mold? Well for one, it is deadly to the point of being used as a biological weapon. Tricothesenes have been used several times in the 20th century with devastating results. During the cold war, tricothesenes under the code name ‘Yellow Rain’ were used by the Soviet Union to cause the deaths of thousands in Southeast Asia.
Make no mistake, these are poisons of the most potent variety. Very small amounts have shown to cause problems ranging from kidney damage to cancer. And they are present in much of the grain consumed today. The ability to detect mycotoxins has only been around since the mid 1980s but studies have shown contamination in food worldwide. For something that can cause effects on micrograms per day, there are amounts as high as milligrams per kilogram found in grain all over the planet
What can you do
As a prepper, there are steps you can take to avoid introducing mycotoxins into your life, ranging from light to extreme. Starting off, it is best to make sure to store grains (and all foods) properly. Vaccuum sealing and using oxygen absorbers is critical. The next step would be to avoid getting grain from mass produced farms. The larger the operation, the more likely it is to keep grain in silage.
And for those willing to take it to the max, the final step is eliminating grains from your preparations. This is another vote for homesteading, food you grow yourself will always be fresh. If your grains get contaminated (or already come to you contaminated) storage is not likely to make them better. A certain amount of mycotoxins could turn a life sustaining staple into a deadly poison.