There’s an email going around about someone almost dying from eating pancakes made from an old mix.  The email says a high school student

… came so close to dying. Evidently this is more common then I ever knew. Check the expiration dates on packages like pancakes and cake mixes that have yeast which over time develop spores.. Apparently, the mold that forms in old mixes can be toxic! Throw away ALL OUTDATED pancake mix, brownie mixes, Bisquick, cake & cookie mixes, etc.., you have in your home.

Unusually, the email I received has a link to the take on this. Snopes is the place to go to check on whether or not something is an urban legend.

The Snopes article on this phenomenon verifies a previous case of a college student who died after he ate pancakes made from a mix that had lain open in the cupboard for a couple of years.   Noting that the “inherent warning is overblown,” in terms of lessons learned from the incident they investigated, Snopes  points out that mold caused the death of the student, who had allergies, including a mold allergy.  Snopes goes on to point out:

For mold to gain access to a food product, the foodstuff has to be exposed to its spores. Pancake mix cocooned in an unbleached wax paper, plastic, or a foil pouch within its outer packaging wouldn’t have this contact and should still be safe no matter how old it gets. However, mix sold unpouched in cardboard boxes or paper sacks would likely be at risk even if the box or sack hadn’t previously been opened, because such packaging would not necessarily keep dampness out, and mold thrives in damp environments.

What does all this mean? If you don’t have a mold allergy, you needn’t fear your pancake mix; if you do have such a sensitivity, you shouldn’t keep your flapjack makings around for a few years after opening the box or pouch it came in. It’s not worth dying over 50¢ worth of pancake mix, so when in doubt, throw it out.

And use some common sense. Keep opened mix containers sealed in air-tight bags or containers, for example, and use the mix before the expiration date. An air-tight container does wonders to prevent bug infestations, also.