April 21, 2024

Undercooked Morels Associated With Deadly Outbreak in MT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that uncooked and undercooked morels were associated with a deadly outbreak at Dave’s Sushi in Bozeman Montana in March and April 2023 that killed two people. Fifty-one people were sickened after eating at that restaurant. Three people were hospitalized.

Undercooked Morels Associated With Deadly Outbreak in MT

The issue is that while morel mushrooms are considered edible, little is known about the human health effects of the fungi. In the study, the consumption of raw morels was more strongly associated with illness than the consumption of cooked or partially cooked morels. After the outbreak the CDC issued an advisory about eating morel mushrooms, whether cooked or not, saying that wild mushrooms should be consumed at your own risk.

Morels were the common food consumed by patients at the sushi restaurant during the outbreak period. They were prepared in two ways: marinated in a hot boiled sauce, and uncooked and cold-marinated during serving. While multiple violations of the food safety code were identified at the time of inspection, including temperature control issues, and improper time control and sanitization procedures, morels were the focus of the investigation.

Among the 51 patients, 45, or 88%, reported eating morel mushrooms at the restaurant. The onset of symptoms was rapid, about 1 hour after the meal. Profuse vomiting and diarrhea were the symptoms. The two patients who died had chronic underlying medical conditions that may have affected their ability to tolerate that type of massive fluid loss.

No toxins were found in the morels, including volatile and nonvolatile organic compounds and enteric pathogens. No causative agent was identified.

The morels were traced back to a single importer and a separate distributor. The morels were imported fresh from China. Twelve facilities in California received morels from the same importer during January 1 to May 17, 2023; no illness complaints were received by the six restaurants that responded to investigators. All six facilities in California reported cooking or thoroughly heating the morels before they were served.

The epidemiologic study clearly demonstrated an association between consumption of the special sushi roll that was made with morels and illness. A stronger association was identified among patients who ate the morels when they were reportedly uncooked.

:The CDC says that morels should be refrigerated art a temperature of 40°F or less, in breathable type packaging. And they should be thoroughly cooked before consumption because heating is likely to reduce toxins present in the  mushrooms.

Attorneys at the Pritzker Hageman Food Safety Law Firm

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