UK/SCOTLAND – In a joint alert, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have issued a cautionary advisory to vulnerable consumers, urging them to thoroughly cook enoki mushrooms due to the potential risk of Listeria contamination.
Recent analysis of FSA and local authority sampling data revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in 13 out of 40 samples of enoki mushrooms, at times reaching high levels.
Enoki mushrooms, also known as Enokitake, Golden Needle, or Lily Mushrooms, are recognizable for their tall, white, thin stems and are commonly used in Asian cuisine.
While these mushrooms are typically cooked, they are occasionally served raw in salads. One of the challenges highlighted by health authorities is the unclear labeling, often not in English, making it difficult for consumers to discern whether the product requires cooking before consumption.
International outbreaks and concerns
Although no cases of listeriosis linked to enoki mushrooms have been reported in the UK, outbreaks and illnesses associated with these mushrooms have been documented in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Notably, an outbreak in the U.S. from October 2022 to February 2023 resulted in hospitalizations of affected individuals.
Given the heightened risk of severe illness from listeriosis, especially among older individuals, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems, public health officials emphasize the importance of thorough cooking.
Stuart McAdam, head of incidents at Food Standards Scotland, stressed the need for careful handling, storage at or below 5 degrees C (41 degrees F), and proper cleaning of surfaces and utensils used during preparation.
Particularly, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems are strongly advised to cook enoki mushrooms thoroughly before consumption to eliminate any Listeria monocytogenes present, which can pose serious health risks.
Food businesses, importers, and consumers have been alerted to the risks associated with enoki mushrooms, with authorities reinforcing the importance of adherence to food safety and labeling requirements.
As legislative measures are considered, vigilance and caution in handling these mushrooms are crucial to ensuring consumer safety.