Mushroom Identification and Food Safety Certification

Control of what mushrooms show up on peoples’ plates in restaurants and in grocery stores is a food safety issue. There are poisonings every year where the picker, wholesaler, and preparer didn’t know the difference between a wonderful meal and a very sick person or worse. Despite the dangers, we as fungiphiles want to enjoy in public places the bounty that foraging provides. This discussion hopes to at least inform others of the issues and current status.                                            To begin, these rules only apply to people who want to sell wild-picked mushrooms, not cultivated oysters, etc. So if you sell some of what you grow, relax. Different food handling regulations apply when you are selling a threshold level of mushrooms. For personal-use identification training, there are less expensive, more extensive, and more enjoyable ways to learn mushroom identification like going on forays with clubs.   In the absence of FDA regulations, the states control this issue, and they generally have ‘better’ things to do, so it generally gets relegated to the mushrooming community. Probably a wise move. This is the case in Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio in the Great Lakes Region. Wisconsin has a “personal use only” policy but has worked with the Minnesota training in the past. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) mandates food safety rules, albeit sanctioning only part of the types that get sold. As in many places, there may be implicit acceptance of sales which no one objects. To my knowledge, a complete list of how this plays out around the continent exists only in a few peoples’ minds although such a compilation has been proposed at NAMA several times. For those of a libertarian bent, any rules that control that may be anathema. Recently in Michigan a law to forbid regulation of mushroom sales got as far as the governors desk, which was vetoed to the general relief of the mushrooming community there. Such contentiousness has risen in many places around the country, especially around certification training. In Minnesota, the work group that developed the training went through several iterations before the current training by the Minnesota Mycological Society, upcoming in March 2017.             Anecdotally, reports of the trainings have been good in general. Complaints have been for the cost and also “Why do I have to learn about fungi in general. Why can’t you just teach me the ones I want to pick?” which may show a lack of knowledge in itself.    So if turning your joy into a living has occurred to you, certainly follow your dream…..in an enlightened manner.