Dangerous Mold in Peanut Butter

Dangerous Mold in Peanut Butter

by Michelle on May 17, 2011

Post image for Dangerous Mold in Peanut Butter

I love peanut butter. I eat it mixed in smoothies, with a sliced banana, and sometimes even right off a spoon. Unfortunately, some of the things I’ve been hearing about mold and a cancer causing agent in peanut butter is making me a bit hesitant. Here’s the “scoop”.

Peanuts are susceptible to a fungi known as Aspergillus which produces aflatoxins (a known carcinogen) that can inflame and impair the liver, even possibly leading to cancer or liver shutdown. Workers around peanuts are actually said to wear protection (like facial masks for breathing) from the mold and danger it creates.

In most cases, the mold cannot be seen in peanut butter and unfortunately there’s been no way determined to completely eliminate it from peanuts and peanut butter. This mold is something to be aware of, especially if you may be suffering from candida. Also, even if the Aspergillus fungus is killed through heating, the dangerous aflatoxins will remain. It seems there’s no winning here!

The Aspergillus fungus prefers warm, wet/humid conditions so some say that peanuts and peanut butters produced in dry areas (such as Arizona) are safer. Refrigerating your peanut butter at home is another option as the cool environment is said to slow the growth of the mold.

In addition, the lesser amount of time that peanut butter sits on the shelf, the better. This is also true in situations where you can freshly grind peanuts into peanut butter at health food stores. Think about this: while the FDA and USDA regulate the levels of aflatoxins upon production (since it can’t be eliminated), once the products hit the stores- there is no further regulation and who can determine how much the mold has continued to grow since sitting on the shelf?

Transport times are also a consideration and it may be worth checking product labels to see where your peanut butter is produced- overseas or somewhere more local? Other nut butters (such as almond) may be a less risky option with regards to aflatoxins. Unfortunately, it almond butter is a LOT more expensive than peanut butter. Some say that soaking nuts for several hours can be an option for helping to neutralize aflatoxins.

Pesticides are another concern with peanut butter so buying organic can be important here. Peanuts are often rotated with cotton which is sprayed heavily and of course the butter is also subject to the sprays that were used directly for peanuts. Other things to watch out for in peanut butter are hydrogenated oils, one of the worst things you can add to your diet, as well as as extra sugar.

Normally there are lots of easy alternatives when something turns out not to be as healthy as previously thought, but in this particular peanut butter case there unfortunately seems to be no obvious catch-all solution. Since peanut butter does offer some health benefits, too, I will likely to proceed by purchasing the best possible, most locally produced organic kind that I can find. I may even give into the cost and purchase some almond butter next time I stop at the health store.


Photo By: Somadjinn

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

emili May 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Have you ever used sun flower butter? It’s really yummy, and easy to make at home. That’s primarily what we use here, though I do love almond butter too, and on occasion buy peanut butter for cookies (when I have a hankerin’ :)

Sarah May 18, 2011 at 12:26 am

Have you tried making your own nut butters? We’ve started doing that recently (just food process soaked/baked nuts and coconut oil) and it is really nummy! Would that “help” solve the problem?

Michelle May 18, 2011 at 11:43 am

Emili, no I haven’t tried that but it sounds really good! Do you just put sunflower seeds in a food processor and add some extra oil?

Sarah, I tried making almond butter a long time ago, but I’ve honestly kind of enjoyed the convenience recently of just buying nut butter. I do think the soaking idea is a good option though and I’m sure the baking afterwards takes care of the mold problem. I just can’t help but wonder if the soaking really neutralizes all the aflatoxins and maybe no one can tell that for sure.

I think I will give it another try though- do you start with raw nuts or roasted ones and then just soak and bake them? Thanks for sharing and helping with this problem! :)

emily February 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm

ayy peanutbutter go hard

bob April 25, 2012 at 9:55 am

eating organic peanut butter may be even worse, as the preservatives from major brands slow the growth of the mold while on the self.

Cindy May 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I work for a peanut butter company. Mold testing is a required lab before the product is placed on the shelf.

Michelle May 17, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I’m so glad to hear this, Cindy! Thanks for sharing that with us!

Amy November 29, 2012 at 1:08 am

Hi, I’m a chemist and LOVE peanut butter. Listen, I test aflatoxins in my lab weekly. (It is so dangerous that we do not keep a pure Aflatoxin standard in the builiding. It is present in peanuts and root based herbs that we consume, especially ones from foreign countries. Yes, aflatoxin is a known carcinogen and is very dangerous when airborne. However, ingesting a carcinogen or a high amount of carcinogens does not mean you automatically get cancer. Cancerous cells don’t propagate unless conditions are right. Carcinogens damage DNA in cells. Our bodies destroy or most of those cells. Some of those cells get overlooked and the DNA is allowed to replicate (mitosis). The overlooked cells only become cancerous when the environment in your body is conducive to it(cholesterol being at a certain level, high animal protein diet, internal pH, etc. Carcinogens can remain in your body and not cause cancer if your animal protein intake is 10% or less. So, don’t worry, consuming aflatoxins (in plant form) is not an automatic death sentence. **Also, whenever you think you’ve consumned a carcinogen, eat antioxidants (fruits) along with it to reduce oxidation and eliminate free radicals. Book recommendation: The China Study.

Diana September 29, 2013 at 10:37 pm

I’m concerned about the accuracy of your statement that grinding your own peanuts is safer (due to lower levels of aspergillus). Peanuts in stores that are available for grinding are not monitored for their aspergillus growth and often times have even MORE aspergillus. Please research and make updates if necessary – i’d hate for people to be grinding their own peanuts thinking it’s healthier. The below aren’t necessarily the most reliable sources of information. However, i’ve talked to my doctor (a holistic M.D.) and she says that this information is accurate.



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