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Issue 47: From Jordan's Desk--Old Pancake Mix and...Anaphylaxis?

Pancakes are probably not the foods you want to add to your diet to reach your perfect weight, but there is another reason to approach pancakes with caution—and that has to do with old pancake mix and allergic reactions.

It may be no surprise to you that 10 percent of the American population—about 27 million people—are allergic to penicillin or a related antibiotic. You may know, too, that an allergic reaction to penicillin can include anaphylaxis (a severe and life-threatening allergic response which can affect multiple organ systems of the body), and cause hives, rashes, asthma-like responses, and swelling. People who are allergic to penicillin simply avoid any penicillin-based antibiotics and, therefore, avoid an allergic response.

That is, at least, when they are aware of it.

What may surprise you, however, is that the mold spores (including penicillin ones) that can grow in exposed, aged, stale pancake mix can also contain penicillin spores (as well as other mold spores or even mites) that can cause an allergic response including anaphylaxis, the most severe allergic response.

While we all know that pancakes are not the most healthy foods on earth, people still eat them and many use boxed pancake mixes to prepare their pancakes. Take, for instance, the 19 year-old college student who succumbed to anaphylaxis from mold spores in his pancake mix. The young man had a history of allergies to mold and other allergens, was home on school break, made pancakes for himself and some friends—and ate two pancakes made from an old box of pancake mix. Shortly after ingesting the pancakes, the college student had trouble breathing and then died from cardiopulmonary arrest.

His cause of death? An allergic reaction to the following molds in his pancake mix:  Penicillin, Fusarium, Mucor, and Aspergillus--four nasty molds that delivered toxic pancakes.

Now that’s not to say that pancake mixes are lethal. They’re not—under normal circumstances with normal people. And for those who are not allergic to mold, then there is no reason to be particularly on guard against old pancake mix.

For those who are allergic to mold or know someone who is, however, here are some things you may need to know. First of all, if you have any old, unused pancake mix of any kind, then you might want to consider throwing it out. It may contain mold spores. Also, it is important to note that a food must be exposed to mold spores to harbor them—and pancake mix in unbleached wax paper, plastic or foil pouches should still be okay to use. Mixes unpouched in paper sacks or in cardboard boxes, however, could be at risk even if the boxes are unopened—because that packaging cannot keep dampness out, and mold thrives in dampness.

So, before you mix up those pancakes (even though they are not the best food choice), check out how long the mix has been on the shelf and how it is packaged.

Throw it out if it is old.

Otherwise, you could be getting a whole lot more than you bargained for—and why risk it?


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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