Here's a bit of additional information (Although there's an answer from Ilan that satisfied you.)
Is it the mould itself that makes us sick or is it something that the
mould is releasing?
What are the mechanisms that cause us to feel sick after eating mouldy
The USDA says that there can also be bacteria along with the mould on
the the food - is this what is really making us feel ill?
There are two things to consider.
- Food infection : bacteria or other microbes that infect the body after consumption
- Food intoxication : ingestion of toxins contained within the food (includes modls), including bacterial produced exotoxins
Majority of food poisoning is caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites rather than toxic substances in the food. e.g. Staphylococcus aureas, salmonella, Bacillus cereus, three common types of bacteria that can lead to food poisoning.
Molds are neither plant or an animal. They are microscopic fungi. Some food molds produce toxins that cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. And a few molds in the right conditions, around the Mycelleum, Mycotoxins are produced; poisonous substances that can make you ill. Mycotoxins also tend to affect more biological systems in our body than do pesticides or heavy metals, partly because fungi have the ability to dodge our immune system by rapidly mutating, while at the same time producing chemicals that suppress our immune system. (You will find more information Mycotoxins here.)
Mycotoxins as a group cannot be classified according to their mode of action, toxicology or metabolism. These vary according to the different chemical structures, sensitivity of the species to the toxin and also factors such as sex, age, health and diet. There are a large number of mycotoxins with a great diversity in their mode of action. Additionally, additive and synergistic effects can occur in the presence of two or more mycotoxins. Following there are the most important mycotoxins and their mode of actions, toxicology and metabolism as well as main symptoms and target organs. (This link explains in great detail.)
- » Aflatoxins (discussed above by Ilan)
- » Trichothecenes
- » Ochratoxins
- » Fumonisins
- » Zearalenone
Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a carcinogenic compound produced by several species of molds, such as Aspergillus and Penicillium, found in a wide range of foods, including cereals, dried fruits, coffee, cocoa products, wine, grape juice, beer, liquorice, blood products, baby foods and spices.
New studies confirm Ochratoxin A inhibits Neurogenesis(the formation of new neurons in the brain). Other than that, its toxicological effects include nephro-
toxicity, nephrocarcinogenicity and immunotoxicity as well.
Aspergillus on Bread - Mold.
The molds that we see on the surface of the food is just a tip of the ice berg. It is an invader, whose roots like threads may have gone deep down entire food (although some says bleu cheese with mold is edible). Growing right along with mold are what are called "gram negative" (e.g. Escherichia coli) and "gram positive" bacteria. Just like mold, they require moisture and organic material to thrive and are often found growing in the same places as mold, and the synergistic action between mold and bacteria further worsen inflammatory health conditions. Oftentimes, those bacterial infections occuring alongside fungal infections make treatment more complicated.