Saturday, October 17, 2009

The One Where She Found Poison in the Pantry

Guest poster - ah ha! Shouldn't have told you I was an im-poster. (Pun intended) Actually, I come from a land far far away. So don't even try to come chase me down if you don't like this one :)

(Wow this is really hard messing with someone else's blog - I'm sure there are a gazillion mistakes here somewhere . . . )

Today I received the following email in my box -

Check the expiration dates on your mixes with yeast! Read on...

Cake Mixes & Toxins- **PLEASE READ **Poison

This is confirmed on Snopes

A student at HBHS (high school) had pancakes this week and it almost became fatal. His Mom (registered nurse) made him pancakes, dropped him off at school and headed to play tennis. She never takes her cell phone on the court but did this time and her son called to say he was having trouble breathing. She told him to go to the nurse immediately and proceeded to call school and alert the nurse. The nurse called the paramedics and they were there in 3 minutes and worked on the boy all the way to the hospital. He came so close to dying. Evidently this is more common then I ever knew. Check the expiration dates on packages like pancakes and cake mixes that have yeast which over time develop spores. Apparently, the mold that forms in old mixes can be toxic! Throw away ALL OUTDATED pancake mix, brownie mixes, Bisquick, cake & cookie mixes, etc., you have in your home.

P.S. Tell this to your children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and anyone else who keeps these types of mixes in the cupboard.

Well, me, ever the sceptic and keeper of almost any pantry item as long as I'm still using it (if you can extend that concept of 'use' to like - yes, I'm pretty sure I did use that at least once this last year, hmmmm. . . better keep it).

I was sceptical, after all I also am an RN, and I've never heard of such a thing. I made my way over to, the ultimate documentary and researcher of all things such as
urban legends, common fallacies, misinformation, old wives' tales, strange news stories, rumors, celebrity gossip, and similar items. I just wanted to see with my own eyes what Snoopy at Snopes had to say about it . . .

Apparently it is not a totally unfounded claim . . . .

Snopes article "Flapjack Flap" originated back in 2006 with a letter written to "Dear Abby" that contains a story similar to the one shared above. Dear Abby's response that became widely circulated was

"Thank you for the warning, I certainly was not aware that pancake mix could turn moldy and cause an allergic reaction in someone with an allergy to mold - but it's logical. I wonder if the same holds true for cake mix, brownie mix and cookie mix. If so, then a warning should be placed on the box for people like me. We hear so often about discarding prescriptions and over-the-counter medications after their expiration dates, but I don't recall warnings about packaged items in the pantry. Heads up folks!"

After investigation, Snoopy at Snopes decided that while there is truth in this tale; the inherent warning is overblown.

It is possible for someone who chows down on pancake mix that has sat around for too long to suffer a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction to the molds that have grown therein, and a resultant death has been documented. It is also true that there is nothing inherently toxic about pancake mix that has past it's freshness date. It's not like Cinderella, transforming immediately from good to poison as the clock strikes midnight. Nor does the growth of mold in a package fell all who consume it, only those who have allergies to mold are at risk, and again, the package must actually contain mold spores, not just be "over the hill".

Also keep in mind, for mold to gain access to a food product, the foodstuff has to actually be exposed to its spores. Mixes sealed in wax paper, foil, or plastic within its outer packaging would not have this contact and still should be safe no matter the age of the product. However, a mix sold in cardboard boxes, or paper sacks would be at risk due to the lack of a moisture barrier surrounding the mix, and mold thrives in a damp environment.

So what exactly IS the bottom line to all this: If you don't have allergies to mold, you're quite safe! You needn't fear the pancake, cake or brownie mix. If you do have allergies to mold, you shouldn't keep your flapjack makings around for a couple years after opening the box or pouch it came in. It's not worth dying over 50 cents worth of pancake mix. So when in doubt - throw it out!

Oh dear, even though we have no allergies to mold in our household, it sure wouldn't hurt to go through my pantry. Now might be a pretty good time to be like Old Mother Hubbard with nothing in the cupboard!

aka - Kristin, "One Day at a Time - Alpine Klein Bunch"

Get some sleep Victoria!


Anonymous said...

well! my goodness... i guess we should just be careful :) i keep my pancake mix in the refrigerator anyway.. so i think we are safe.

btw-- the word verification right now on here is "pests"


Cherie said...

I had no idea and in a round about way it makes sense!
I am the type of person who never uses anything past the date anyway and my husband thinks I go a little overboard - ha ha - maybe I will show him this!!
I remember once when I was little my grandma got a cake mix from her storage that had probably been there awhile and when she opened it up it was full of weevils - now that really grossed me out!!

Carolyn said...

I think I may have seen this one. People tend to send me all their spam. Thank goodness for snopes. I love that site.

Whenever I get a false or even semi-true email I gleefully send them the snopes link that disproves the forwarded trash.

Victoria said...

I eat so much moldy food that I am immune:) Actually, I hope that is not true! One time we spent the night at DK's parents' house, and I pulled out Bisquick to make pancakes, and it was so old that it was rancid... I don't even know how long it has to sit for THAT to happen. Ew!

Thanks for the guest post, Kristin! You are the best! I am going to bed a little earlier tonight...

Valerie said...

I do throw food out if it's past the expiration date, but I'm not like my husband. The few times he's gone grocery shopping with me, he picks up each item that I put into the cart to make sure the expiration date isn't too close. Then he occasionally will search the refrigerator for the same thing. But he doesn't often search the pantry. Guess I'll have to do that myself. Although I think we're safe since I rarely have mixes and we aren't allergic to mold---as far as I know.

Congrats on your guest post, Cherie! Sorry I hadn't been to your blog for a few days so I didn't even know you had posted here until the weekend when I didn't have time to come check it out.

Andrea said...

Yikes! I'm glad we don't have mold allergies (that I know of). We don't use baking mixes very often, either. But maybe I should go check, just in case...

Yvonne said...

I have mixes that I'm sure are a little past their dates--thanks for the heads up. I appreciate all the checking you did.