U.S – Enoki mushrooms imported from China and distributed by Utopia Foods, New York, have been linked to a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak.
This is according to investigations conducted by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as state and local partners.
The FDA describes Enoki mushrooms as long thin white mushrooms that are usually sold in clusters. They are typically popular in East Asian cuisine and are also known as enokitake, golden needle, futu, seafood, or lily mushrooms.
The CDC had recorded three cases that are part of the outbreak as of January 18, 2023.
According to the FDA, two sick persons reported consuming enoki mushrooms or going to restaurants where enoki mushroom-based dishes were offered.
The third patient reportedly refrained from consuming enoki mushrooms but admitted to visiting several Asian grocers.
Through continuing sampling initiatives, the FDA and state partners have been gathering and evaluating samples of enoki mushrooms.
Listeria monocytogenes was found in one of the samples that was identified as coming from Utopia Foods, Inc.
Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis determined that the strain of Listeria found in the Utopia Foods, Inc. sample matched the strain of Listeria linked to two illnesses in the outbreak.
The FDA also announced that it found a second strain of Listeria monocytogenes in the sample, which is thought to be responsible for a third illness. Both strains are now being considered in the outbreak investigation.
Following these tests, Utopia Foods, Inc. voluntarily added their 200g packets of “Enoki Mushrooms” to the original recall announced on December 13, 2022.
These mushrooms were marketed in clear and blue plastic containers with the dates “Best before 03/02/2023” or “Best before 03.09.23” printed on them. They were imported from China.
According to the FDA, these products were distributed between January 6 and January 13 in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut through wholesalers.
The regulator has stated that the investigation is still ongoing in order to identify a possible source of contamination and see whether any other products are contaminated or associated with illnesses.
It has also warned against eating, selling, or serving recalled enoki mushrooms from Utopia Foods, Inc. Instead, consumers, restaurants, and merchants should return them to the place of purchase for a refund or throw them away.
In 2020, enoki mushrooms imported from the Republic of Korea (ROK) were linked to a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes that led to 31 hospital admissions and four fatalities.
As part of the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety’s Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan, the regulator launched two new food safety prevention techniques in 2022 to stop foodborne listeriosis and salmonellosis linked to imported enoki and wood ear mushrooms.
The strategies look at commodity-hazard combinations, potential sources and pathways of contamination, and what may be done to lower foodborne illness occurrences in the future.
They also point out knowledge gaps that need to be filled and areas that need to be prioritized in order to encourage collaborations for public health protection and outbreak prevention among external stakeholders.