Moldy cantaloupe in Peoria is having its day in the sun

Penicillum rubens is the mold that saved the world, says State Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria). (WJBC file photo)

By Dave Dahl

SPRINGFIELD – The main ingredient in penicillin is about to become the official state microbe.

Penicillum rubens is the mold that saved the world, says State Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria). “The process to mass-produce this penicillin (at the USDA lab in Peoria) came from a cantaloupe that had grown a certain type of mold,” said Spain.

It’s probably the best known product from the venerable lab, which is still at it some eighty years later. Another? The super-absorbent paper used in disposable diapers. Maybe that could net another state designation?

By the way, why should Illinois have an official state this and that?

“It’s useful to learn about our state and be proud of the great things Illinois has done to change the course of the world,” said Spain. With business in Springfield often contentious, he added, “it’s sometimes nice to have a thing or two that we can all agree on.”

Dave Dahl can be reached at


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