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White Spots on Oranges – Are They Still Safe to Eat?

You reach for an orange and discover that the peel has white spots.

Or, you peel an orange and see white spots on the segments.

Maybe you’ve opened up a can of oranges and can’t help but notice that some of the segments sport white spots.

Oranges with spots on the inside are okay to eat, as long as the fruit is still firm, but oranges with white spots on the outside are not safe to eat.

White Spots on Oranges

White spots on the outside are signs of mold. White spots can appear outside of the orange on the peel or inside of the orange on the fruit segments. Mold can also be light green or light blue. The white spots in the segments are damage from the fruit being frozen at some point. Studies have shown that oranges with these spots are safe to eat.

White Spots on Orange Peel – Bad

White spots on the outside of oranges are from mold. This is from the mold species Geotrichum candidum.

It’s more commonly called sour rot and can appear on other citrus fruits.

Mold also comes in light green (Penicillium digitatum) and light blue (Penicillium italicum.)

Other species of mold can cause discoloration like white spots. The Cleveland Clinic points out that you really have no idea what species of mold is on your orange and if that species is going to harm you.

It’s not only the mold that can get you sick – it’s also any bacteria that live inside of the mold.

It’s better not to take any chances and just throw the orange out.

What if you remove the moldy peel and see that the orange fruit itself looks good? Is it safe to eat?

The Cleveland Clinic says no.

Mold spores are so small that they cannot be seen.

It takes a big colony to produce even a small white spot. Since there is a chance that the orange is infected, throw it out.

You should also throw out any oranges next to the moldy orange or the rest of a bag of oranges that the moldy orange was in, even if all of the other oranges look okay.

Microscopic mold spores constantly float in the air looking for a nice, organic place like fruit to call home.

All other oranges in contact with a moldy orange are sure to be infected, even if they look fine.

White Spots on Orange Segments – Good

Although the oranges you find on your store shelves are mostly grown in warm climates, those places can sometimes dip to freezing temperatures.

The oranges could also be frozen somewhere during transport.

This freezing leaves its mark on the orange in the form of white dots or spots.

They vary in size and number from orange to orange.

These form in between orange segments.

When you pull a segment apart and see a dot, the other half of the dot will be on the connecting segment.

These spots can even be seen in canned oranges.

Back in the 1930s, rumors went around that eating any oranges with white spots on the segments could get you very sick. 

A study was done about freeze-induced white spots in oranges in 1935 to discover if these rumors were true.

Volunteers drank juice made from the white-spotted oranges. None of them got sick.

The same study also showed that the vitamin C content in white-spotted oranges was just the same as in oranges that were never frozen.

How to Tell if an Orange is Bad

The Texas Cooperative Extension from Texas A & M University notes oranges that are not safe to eat:

  • Have dull colored peels.
  • Have peels that feel exceptionally rough.
  • Have spots of mold.
  • Are squishy or very soft to the touch.
  • Smell like alcohol or anything other than an orange.

They also advise never to buy bags of oranges, because you cannot see if a moldy or spoiled orange is lurking in the middle of the pile.

Buy oranges singly, inspecting each orange.

This will not only keep you from getting sick, but will reduce food waste, because you may not be able to eat all of those oranges before they go bad.

Reducing the Chances of Oranges Going Moldy or Getting You Sick

Mold is inevitable for food, but you can put off its growth.

Oranges can also pick up bacteria or other contaminants that can get you very sick, but with a few precautions, you can make sure your oranges are as safe as can be.

  • Keep your oranges separate from meat, cheese or other foods that could leak onto your fruit and contaminate them.
  • Keep oranges in crisper or vegetable bins in the refrigerator because they are humid enough to keep oranges or other fruits and vegetables fresher than in any other part of the refrigerator.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is at least 40 degrees F.
  • Open the refrigerator door as few times as possible to keep the cold in. Don’t stand there with the door open and wonder what to eat.
  • Only wash unpeeled oranges in water and never use detergents or soaps.
  • Cover foods that could contaminate your oranges or other foods like meat, dairy and leftovers.
  • Regularly wash your refrigerator shelves, especially if food or blood from meat has leaked onto them.

Frequently Asked Questions About White Spots on Oranges

Why Does My Orange Have White Dots?

White, blue, or pale green dots on an orange rind are moldy spots. The orange is not safe to eat, even if the segments look and feel okay. White dots on the peeled fruit mean that at some point the fruit was in freezing temperatures, most likely while still on the tree. The orange is safe to eat.

Can Oranges Go Bad?

Oranges go bad quickly. Unpeeled oranges start going off in less than two weeks at room temperature and in about four weeks if they are refrigerated. Peeled or cut oranges go off in a few hours at room temperature and in less than two days if refrigerated.

What Happens if You Eat a Moldy Orange?

If the fruit is still firm, it is possible that you will be fine. However, the Cleveland Clinic warns that you should be alert for signs of food poisoning or an allergic reaction to the mold. Seek medical attention immediately if you get a fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or have problems breathing.


The Least You Need to Know

The white spots on the outside of an orange, on the rind, are caused by mold.

That orange should be thrown out.

White spots on orange fruit segments are damage to the fruit caused by freezing.

They can appear on fresh or canned oranges. These oranges are safe to eat.