"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Pancakes won't turn you right into a zombie like in HBO's 'The Last of U,' but mold within the dough has been making people sick for a very long time.

In the HBO series “The last of usNamed after the favored video game of the identical name, flour supplies around the globe are contaminated with a fungus called When people eat pancakes or other foods made with this flour, the fungus grows inside their bodies and turns them into zombies.

Like Food scientistI study the consequences of processing on the standard and safety of fruit and veggies, including the flour used to make pancakes. While eating pancakes in real life doesn't turn anyone right into a zombie, the batter is commonly contaminated with fungi that may produce mycotoxins that make people sick. However, proper processing and cooking can generally keep you secure.

'The Last of Us' relies on a pandemic that brings the world to an apocalyptic end.

How common is fungus in flour?

People are eating bread comprised of wheat. About 14,000 years and wheat cultivation At least 10,000 years. In 1882Alcoholic bread disease” was first documented in Russia, where people reported dizziness, headaches, hand tremors, confusion and vomiting after eating the bread. Long before that, Chinese farmers were reporting that eating pink wheat — an indication of an infection called mold — made them feel sick. Clearly, mold has been making people sick for a very long time.

Wheat, corn, rice and even fruit and veggies may be affected by the fungus as they grow in the sector. In “The Last of Us,” an epidemiologist theorizes that climate change is altering the fungus in order that it will probably infect humans. Unfortunately, the fact is that cookies have turn out to be an issue lately. Hot temperature Encourage their growth.

A 2017 study More than 90% of wheat and corn flour samples in Washington, DC were found to contain live fungi together with the most important varieties of wheat flour molds. grows on wheat in the sector and may cause a standard agricultural plant disease called fusarium head blightor itching.

Farmers use Multiple techniques To reduce this devastating plant disease, including implementing crop rotation, using resistant varieties and fungicides and minimizing irrigation during flowering. After harvesting, they sort the contaminated wheat to remove it before grinding it into flour. Although sorting removes a lot of the contaminated wheat, a small amount of mold could make it into the flour.

Wheat infected with Fusarium head blight is pink in color.
Tomasz Klejdysz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Killing microorganisms in flour

The excellent news is that almost all fungi and other microorganisms Die at 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit. (71-77 degrees Celsius). Pancakes are often cooked to internal temperature. 190-200 f (88-93 C). Other cakes and breads are baked at internal temperature. Anywhere from 180 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit (82-99 C). So, unlike “the last of us,” by the point you bake or roast your dough, you've killed the fungus.

The problem comes when people eat the dough without cooking it first, akin to by eating raw cookie dough or “licking the bowl clean.” Both raw eggs and raw flour can contain microorganisms that make people sick. The microorganisms that public health officials are most concerned about are And Dangerous pathogens that may cause severe disease.

Most people don't realize that the flour they buy at the shop is raw flour that also accommodates live microorganisms. Flour isn't considered commercially fit for human consumption raw because consumers almost at all times cook flour-based foods. While consumers also can try heating raw flour at home, This is not recommended Because the flour can't be spread wonderful enough to kill all of the microorganisms.

Microscopic image of _Aspergillus_
One of the most important molds present in wheat flour.
tonaquatic/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Some fungi and microorganisms can form spores, that are like seeds that help them survive in opposed conditions. These spores can survive cooking, drying, and freezing. are also 4,500-year-old yeast seeds Which have been reawakened and made into bread. These fungal spores rarely cause serious illness in people, except in individuals with Weak immune system.

Chemicals can be added to food. To prevent fungal growth. These additives include sorbates, benzoates and propionates. However, you almost never see these items in flour or pancake mix because mold cannot grow in dry powders. Mold either grows on the wheat in the sector or on the bread after it has been baked. For this reason, you could find these additives in bread but not in powder mixes.


The biggest danger from mold will not be that it'll grow inside our bodies, but that it'll grow on wheat or other foods and produce. Chemicals called mycotoxins Which may cause serious health problems. When wheat is harvested and ground into flour, it will probably contain mycotoxins.

Unfortunately, while normal cooking can kill microorganisms, this Does not destroy mycotoxins. Ingestion of mycotoxins may cause problems starting from hallucinations to vomiting and diarrhea to cancer or death. a few of Common mycotoxins These include aflatoxin, deoxynullinol, ochratoxin A and fumonisin B present in grains.

Molded pastry on a plate
Better to go away this moldy bread alone.
Moment via Yulia Nomenko/Getty Images

The oldest case of mycotoxin poisoning is recorded. A disease called ergotism.. Ergotism was mentioned within the Old Testament and has been reported in Western Europe since 800 AD. It has even been suggested that Salem Witch Trials was attributable to the spread of ergotism which caused its victims to suffer hallucinations, although many have disputed this concept. There is wheat. less likely contain more dangerous mycotoxins than other cereals, which is why some have suggested that the decline in mortality in 18th-century Europe, Especially in Englandwas as a result of a change from a rye-based eating regimen to a wheat-based eating regimen.

Ultimately, you don't should worry about eating these pancakes. Farmers use a variety of techniques to cut back fungal growth and take away moldy grains, and the federal government closely monitors mycotoxin levels during crop production and storage. Just be certain that you bake your bakery products before eating, and don't eat anything that has began to mold.