Morel mushrooms are a type of edible mushroom that are commonly foraged from the wild and are sometimes cultivated for commercial sale. Morel mushrooms are generally considered safe to eat, but they may contain some toxins that can cause health problems. The toxins in morel mushrooms that may cause illness are not fully understood; however, using proper preparation procedures, such as cooking can help to reduce toxin levels.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are assisting Gallatin City-County Health DepartmentExternal Link Disclaimer and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) with an investigation of illnesses at a single restaurant in Montana. The restaurant temporarily closed following the illnesses and at this time, there does not appear to be any further risk to the public. Available epidemiological evidence indicates that imported cultivated morel mushrooms, consumed at a single Montana restaurant, were the likely source of illnesses.
The morel mushrooms served at the restaurant in Montana were distributed to multiple states; however, at this time, this appears to be a localized issue and no illnesses have been identified outside of the single restaurant in Montana.
Symptoms of morel and other mushroom poisonings:
Symptoms depend on the type of mushroom consumed, the specific toxin and amount ingested. Symptoms can also vary depending on the individual who ate them.
While there appears to be no ongoing risk related to this investigation, the following are general safety tips related to morel and other wild-type mushrooms (this includes mushrooms that are traditionally wild and foraged but can also be cultivated). If you become ill after consuming any mushroom, please contact your healthcare provider and/or call the poison control help lineExternal Link Disclaimer at 1-800-222-1222.
Consumers, restaurants, and retailers:
Consumers should eat morel and other wild-type mushrooms at their own risk. Properly cooking morel mushrooms can reduce risk of illness, however there is no guarantee of safety even if cooking steps are taken prior to consumption. Anyone eating, selling, or serving morel mushrooms, or other wild-type of mushrooms, should exercise caution. There are varieties of poisonous wild mushrooms that look very similar to morel mushrooms. If you are preparing morels, you should confirm the identity of each mushroom, and consult with a knowledgeable expert as the poisonous species have been known to grow near edible species in the wild.
If you are preparing morel or other wild-type mushrooms, you should inspect for any signs of spoilage as toxin presence and levels may be affected by freshness or lack thereof. Choose mushrooms that are dry and firm and avoid those that are bruised, discolored, or slimy.
Mushrooms should be refrigerated at a temperature of 40° F or below, either in their original packaging or in breathable type packaging, such as a paper bag.
Harvesters and manufacturers:
Conditions in which wild-type mushrooms are packaged and stored can contribute to growth of harmful bacteria and toxins. Harvesters and manufacturers should pack mushrooms in breathable packaging to allow air flow through the container which will prevent growth of these pathogens.
Additional information on selecting, storing, and serving fresh produce, such as mushrooms, can be found on the FDA website.