I managed to find primary taste detection thresholds, e.g. for sweetness it's 1 part in 200 of sucrose in solution.

Recently I've noticed that I can detect mold smell/taste even if there are no signs of product getting spoiled.

What is the mold detection threshold in humans, and is that a dangerous amount?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Different molds might have different taste. Thresholds can be set for primary tastes, and maybe for very basic molecules and compounds, but it is unlikely to be able to find one consistent threshold for something as varied as mold. $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Apr 19, 2017 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe asking for one consistent treshold is too much, but some numbers would give at least an overview. It's an interesting research topic, shame it looks hard to do at home. $\endgroup$
    – charlie_pl
    Apr 19, 2017 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


It depends on the mold. For example, humans can smell octenol in ppb concentrations[1], presumably long before any toxic effects of this or other compounds produced by molds. Octenol is produced by many molds, always through breakdown of linoleic acid (part of many triglycerides, i.e., fatty oils present in most food).

Update: another example of a non-toxic mold is that causing cork taint. The responsible substances (trichloroanisoles, TCA) can be tasted by humans in wine at 2-4ng (nanograms) per liter wine.[2]

[1] M. J. Saxby: Food Taints and Off-Flavours., 2. ed., Springer 1995, ISBN 978-0-7514-0263-6, S. 210–212.

[2] http://schaechter.asmblog.org/schaechter/2018/07/tainted.html


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