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Mold in Pancake Mix Warning

Summary:
Message warns that mold in old pancake mix can cause serious health problems and claims that a person died after eating mold-contaminated pancakes (Full commentary below.)



Status:
True

Example:(Submitted May 2006)
IMPORTANT FYI.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE READ THIS. ESPECIALLY ALL YOU PANCAKE LOVERS. THANKS.

DEAR ABBY:

I recently made a batch of pancakes for my healthy 14-year-old son, using a mix that was in our pantry. He said that they tasted "funny," but ate them anyway. About 10 minutes later, he began having difficulty breathing and his lips began turning purple. I gave him his allergy pill, had him sit on the sofa and told him to relax. He was wheezing while inhaling and exhaling. My husband, a volunteer firefighter and EMT, heated up some water, and we had my son lean over the water so the steam could clear his chest and sinuses. Soon, his breathing became more regular and his lips returned to a more normal color. We checked the date on the box of pancake mix and, to my dismay, found it was very outdated. As a reference librarian at an academic institution, I have the ability to search through many research databases. I did just that, and found an article the next day that mentioned a 19-year-old male DYING after eating pancakes made with outdated mix. Apparently, the mold that forms in old pancake mix can be toxic! When we told our friends about my son's close call, we were surprised at the number of people who mentioned that they should check their own pancake mix since they don't use it often, or they had purchased it some time ago. With so many people shopping at warehouse-type stores and buying large sizes of pancake mix, I hope your readers will take the time to check the expiration date on their boxes. Also, beware of outdated cake, brownie and cookie mixes.

PASS IT ON!!!!




Commentary:
This "Dear Abby" article was first published in various newspapers during April 2006 and is now circulating via email and online.

Although the experience of the 14-year-old child described in the message has not been verified, the core information is factual. Mold that can form in old pancake mix and other foodstuffs can indeed cause a serious allergic reaction. As the message claims, in one documented case, a 19-year-old man died of anaphylaxis after eating pancakes made from an old pancake mix that contained mold.

Thus, the warning is valid. Moreover, it should be noted that mold forms on many different types of food, not just pancake mix. As well as causing allergic reactions, mold can sometimes produce poisonous substances called "mycotoxins," that can cause illness. Also, "root" threads of mould can penetrate deep into the food and may be difficult to see. Dangerous mold related substances might be present throughout the food, even when mold is only visible on the surface.

Pancake mix and similar products that have been stored for some time should be thoroughly examined before use and consumers should take careful note of use-by dates. Since mould spores can be transported via air, water, or insects, this is especially true if the food has been stored in a non-airtight container or a packet that has been previously opened. Mix that seems a little dubious should be discarded, as the risk of allergic reactions or illness is not worth the few cents saved. Also, if food seems to have an unexpected or unusual taste (or if children complain that it "tastes funny"), consumers should thoroughly re-examine the food before eating any more.

The United States Food Safety Inspection Service has published a fact sheet that provides more information about molds and food safety.


Write-up by Brett M. Christensen



References:
An unusual case of anaphylaxis. Mold in pancake mix.
Molds On Food: Are They Dangerous?
Old pancake mix can be lethal - Dear Abby Column - Chicago Tribune