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Mushroom News Flash Revised Food Code Addresses Wild Mushrooms
(Published in the American Mushroom Institute) February Issue 13(2):6-7.

Anonymous. 2002. Revised food code addresses wild mushrooms. Mushroom News Flash (Published by the American Mushroom Institute) February Issue 13(2):6-7.

Revised Food Code Addresses Wild Mushrooms

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced the availability of the 2001 revision of the Food Code, a compendium of model food safety guidelines for retail operations and institutions. The Food Code is used as a reference by the more than 3,000 state and local regulatory agencies that oversee food safety in restaurants, grocery stores, nursing homes and other institutional and retail settings.

The FDA Food Code provides a model by which state regulatory authorities may develop or update their own food safety rules. Although it is neither federal law nor regulation, the Food Code is used by state and local regulatory agencies across the country and helps achieve consistency among these various regulatory jurisdictions. Changes were included in the section on wild mushrooms, which now states:

3-201.16 Wild Mushrooms

(A) Except as specified in section (B), mushroom species picked in the wild shall be obtained from sources where each mushroom is individually inspected and found to be safe by an approved mushroom identification expert.

(B) This section does not apply to: (1 ) Cultivated wild mushroom species that are grown, harvested and processed in an operation that is regulated by the food regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the operation; or (2) Wild mushroom species if they are in packaged form and are the product of a food processing plant that is regulated by the food regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the plant.

In addition, guidelines were published in the Public Health Reasons Annex to the FDA 2001 Food Code addressing the safety of wild-picked mushrooms available at retail facilities and the proper identification of these mushrooms by an expert. The guidelines are:

"Over 5000 species of fleshy mushrooms grow naturally in North America. The vast majority have never been tested for toxicity. It is known that about 15 species are deadly and another 60 are toxic to humans whether they are consumed raw or cooked. An additional 36 species are suspected of being poisonous, whether raw or cooked. At least 40 other species are poisonous if eaten raw, but are safe after proper cooking. Some wild mushrooms that are extremely poisonous may be difficult to distinguish from edible species. In most parts of the country there is at least one organization that includes individuals who can provide assistance with both identification and program design. Governmental agencies, universities and mycological societies are examples of such groups. If a food establishment chooses to sell wild mushrooms, management must recognize and address the need for a sound identification program for providing safe wild mushrooms.

Regulatory authorities have expressed their difficulty in determining what constitutes a "wild mushroom identification expert" and enforcing the Food Code provisions associated with it. In 1998, the Conference for Food Protection (CFP) attempted to alleviate this problem through the formation of a committee that was charged with determining what constitutes a wild mushroom expert. However, the committee was unable to provide this information in a practical, useful manner for state and local regulators within the constraints of the Food Code. The 2000 CFP recommended and FDA accepted the committee's alternative solution that a brochure be developed that will provide information on what constitutes a wild mushroom expert, and to replace "identification by a wild mushroom expert" with "written buyer specifications."

The CFP's recommendation attempts to provide the necessary information in a practical, useful manner for all stakeholders, and yet still convey the highest level of public health protection. The CFP committee suggested that written buyer specifications place more responsibility on the food establishment to ensure that wild mushrooms are obtained from a safe source, and also provides state and local regulators a template to use in ensuring wild mushrooms sold at retail are obtained from a safe source. However, the recommendation for written buyer specifications will not replace Food Code paragraph 3-201.16 (A) until the brochure is developed and accepted by the CFP and FDA. In the interim, the following guidance is provided regarding the identification of wild mushrooms: A food establishment that sells or serves mushroom species picked in the wild shall have a written buyer specification that requires identification of:

  • The Latin binomial name, the author of the name and the common name of the mushroom species,
  • That the mushroom was identified while in the fresh state,
  • The name of the person who identified the mushroom,
  • A statement as to the qualifications and training of the identifier, specifically related to mushroom identification.

Additional information can be found on the California Poison Control web site:


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