Question: I would really appreciate an advice on a matter of mold. I am having a hard time to get a straight answer locally. I am a self-employed marine surveyor who, along with a food inspector, inspected and dumped about 200 bottles of jam that had broken in transit. This was on Christmas Eve. Because some of the jam had developed mold, I asked the food inspector if we could test for the age of the mold to determine the approximate time/location of the damage. He advised that to determine the age of the mold, the temperature and relative humidity (RH) of the environment in which it was transported was required. The jam had been transported in a shipping container but temperature or RH data was not available.
When I see forensics on CSI testing for age of dead bodies, I find it hard to believe that the age of mold cannot be similarly determined.
I would be grateful if you could let me know, for my edification, whether it is possible to test for the age of mold.
Thank you for your kind assistance. Best regards.
Answer: I am not aware of a simple test that could be used to determine the age of mold. Also, in the case of the damaged jam bottles, the age of the mold may not help determine the approximate time/location of the damage. If we define age as the duration of time during which a cell, tissue, or organism has existed as a distinct entity, defining the age of mold could be a problem. This is because the network of fungal filaments (the mycelia) or spores from which the visible mold develops could be several years old. Another fact that complicates defining the age of mold is that mold grows only at the hyphal tips, and therefore the cells at the advancing edge of a fungal colony are the youngest, and those progressively nearer the centre are older. If we could determine the time (and not the age) it took the mold to develop into visible growth, this could help us determine the approximate time of damage. From laboratory observations of the growth rates of molds under different growth conditions, we may speculate how long it took for the visible growth to appear on the jam if we knew the type of mold and the conditions under which the jam was transported.