Is It OK to Scrape Mold off Jam? (The USDA Weighs In)


Anyone who eats jam and jelly knows that you will occasionally see a little mold on top or maybe under the lid. This creates the conundrum of whether the whole jar should be tossed or if you can safely just scoop out the mold and keep eating. Some say that, like cheese, you can just get rid of the mold and eat the rest of the jelly. According to the USDA, that is not the case when it comes to any type of preserves.

It is not safe to scrape mold off of jam then eat it. If you ever find mold on your jelly or jam, it is best to get rid of the jar right away. While some harmless molds could just be scraped off, it is difficult to tell the difference between benign and harmful mold.

Now you know what to do if you find mold in your jam or jelly jars. If you want more information on the subject, please continue reading.

Why Should I Discard My Canned Food If Mold Forms?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and many microbiologists recommend discarding canned foods with mold on them. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Toxins May Be Present– Foods that have mold growing may have invisible bacteria growing along with the mold that can produce and send out a poisonous substance called mycotoxins that can contaminate the entire container of food and make you ill. The most notorious of mycotoxins are aflatoxins which are cancer-causing poisons.
  • The PH Level May Be Altered– Mold can also change the pH of the food that would create the conditions to form botulism.
  • There May Be Other Harmful Underlying Problems– Mold can be an indication that the food was underprocessed which can cause other harmful conditions.

Can I Reboil the Jam or Jelly to Get Rid of the Mold?

You cannot get rid of the mold in jam or jelly by re-boiling. Boiling does not reach temperatures that can destroy the type of toxins that molds release.

What Causes Mold to Form on Jam, Jelly, and Other Canned Food?

Mold will typically not form on jam or jelly because of the preservative nature of sugar and because of the high acid content of most fruit. But, mold will form if certain conditions are present, such as:

  • Underprocessing can lead to foodborne illness or, at the very least, spoilage. Jam and Jelly must be heated to a full rolling boil, and that temperature must be maintained for a certain length of time in order to allow the pectin to work its magic so that a gel is formed and to kill any bacteria that could produce mold.
  • Using jars that have not been appropriately sterilized can introduce bacteria into your canned food that could cause mold to grow.
  • Cross-contamination with other foods can cause mold to form. For example, while making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, if you drop a bit of bread into the jelly jar, mold can form around that breadcrumb. Without dedicating one spoon or other utensils for the jam or jelly and using a spoon in another food and then dipping it into the jelly jar can cause cross-contamination and mold growth.
  • Lack of refrigeration will eventually cause the jam or jelly to go bad.
  • If the jam or jelly does not seal properly or becomes unsealed during storage, the food will begin to go bad much earlier than if sealed correctly.

How to Prevent Mold From Forming on Canned Food?

Here are some general guidelines to prevent mold from forming on canned food:

  • Be sure food is processed correctly- The high sugar content and the high temperature used for cooking jam and jelly will make the finished product safe to eat. However, if you try to reduce the sugar or do not cook it long enough, you run the risk of having your canned food go bad.
  • Use adequate sterilization techniques- This gets rid of any bacteria that could introduce mold into your food.
  • No double-dipping- This mainly applies to using utensils when eating jam or jelly. Just scoop out a serving with a clean spoon or knife. If you need more, use a clean spoon, so there is no cross-contamination with other food.
  • Clean storage- Cleanliness is vital in preventing molds, so clean the inside of the refrigerator often with baking soda and water and only use clean dishcloths and towels, and serving utensils.
  • Keep food covered when serving- Covering helps keep foods moist and prevent exposure to mold spores in the air. Also, keep the humidity level in the house below 40%.
  • Put it away immediately- Don’t leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours.
  • Check food in the store- Make sure you inspect canned goods before you buy it to be sure you are not bringing home mold.

Are There any Molds That Are Good For Human Consumption?

There are many different known types of mold, with some estimates up to about 300,000, but only a few that are good or even beneficial to humans.

Here are a few molds that are beneficial to humans:

  • Penicillin
  • Soy sauce is made by combining soybeans with grain and mold.
  • Cheeses such as blue cheese and gorgonzola contain mold.
  • Some beer and wine have a high mold content.

Is There Any Food Safe to Keep After Mold Forms?

There are some foods that are safe to keep after mold forms. Hard cheeses, fruits, and vegetables can be salvaged after mold forms, as well as hard salami and dry-cured country hams. Just cut off the mold, or wash off in the case of the hard salami and dry-cured country ham.

Most other food that has mold growing on it should just be tossed. There are many sources of information that tell you it is alright to just scoop the mold off jam and jelly and eat the rest, but it is really not safe to do so as it is very difficult to tell what kind of mold is growing, and it is best to just not take the chance. Just empty that jar of moldy jam or jelly.

Health Concerns to Humans By Consuming Food Containing Mold

  1. Botulism-There are three main kinds of Botulism, but it is foodborne botulism that causes intestinal infections that we would be concerned with here in canned foods.
  2. Allergies- Many people have allergic sensitivities to mold.

Mold sensitivities could result in any or a combination of the following reactions:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sinus congestion, stuffiness, and pain
  • Feeling warm in the neck or face.

Can I Reuse the Jar if the Food Inside Had Mold Growing on it?

You can reuse your good canning jars, even if the food in them had mold growing. Just be sure to wash the jar thoroughly and sterilize it before reusing it. Remember, good canning jars can be used and reused as long as they are not chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged.

Final Thoughts

Even though you can safely remove mold from foods such as cheese, fruit, and vegetables and eat what is left, any canned food, including jam and jelly, should be discarded if you detect any mold either on the food or under the lid.

Some molds are not harmful and would be safe to scoop away and eat the rest of the food, but it is best not to take a chance. Just discard the contents of the jar and pop open a new one. Be sure to discard moldy food in a safe fashion so that children and animals can’t get into it. And don’t forget, the jars and rings can be recycled and used many times, as long as they remain undamaged.

For more, don’t miss Is Jam, Jelly, or Any Preserves Vegan? | What You Should Know.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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