Kathleen Purvis Q&A

Outdated cake mixes aren't that dangerous

kpurvis@charlotteobserver.comMarch 12, 2013 

Q: I read a scary story on the Internet about people getting sick and dying from mold in outdated cake mixes. I have several outdated mixes. Is it safe to use them?

This common tale started with a “Dear Abby” column years ago, but it isn’t as dire as it sounds. It’s based on a single confirmed case, in Charleston in 2001, of a young man who died after eating pancakes made from stale pancake mix.

However, the young man was known to be severely allergic to food molds, and the pancake mix in question had been opened and was more than just a few months out of date. Other people who ate pancakes from the same mix didn’t get sick.

Molds grow in the presence of moisture. If the cake mix is well-sealed, especially if the package is the type that’s a wax paper, plastic or foil pouch inside a box, it wouldn’t be exposed to moisture and wouldn’t be hospitable to molds. Even if it did harbor molds, you would be unlikely to have a problem if you aren’t allergic to molds.

A person with a mold allergy should be cautious about opened packages. But in general, outdated cake mixes are usually OK to use if the mix doesn’t smell rancid or show any sign of bugs.

Email food or cooking questions to Kathleen Purvis at kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.

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