Guidance for Retail Sale of Wild-Harvested Mushrooms
A wild-harvested mushroom means a fresh mushroom that has been picked in the wild but not processed (e.g., dried) or packaged in an approved food processing plant. Wild-harvested mushroom does not include cultivated mushrooms.
Growers of cultivated mushrooms typically purchase “plugs” that have previously been inoculated with an edible fungi species (for example, shiitake spp.), and insert them into holes that have been drilled into logs. As environmental conditions allow, the mushrooms begin to grow directly on the logs and are then picked by hand.
Why are There Regulations Specific to Wild-harvested Mushrooms?
The sale and service of wild harvested mushrooms occurs nationwide at retail sales and food service establishments, and poses the risk of death if toxic species are inadvertently offered in place of species that are safe to eat. Over 5000 species of fleshy mushrooms grow naturally in North America. The majority have never been tested for toxicity. It is known that about 15 species are deadly and another 60 are toxic to humans whether they are consumed raw or cooked. An additional 36 species are suspected of being poisonous, whether raw or cooked. At least 40 other species are poisonous if eaten raw, but are safe after proper cooking. Some wild mushrooms that are extremely poisonous may be difficult to distinguish from edible species.
Regulation – Chapter 40-7-1 Retail Food Sales
40-7-1-.09 Sources, Specifications, and Original Containers (6) Wild Mushrooms. (a) Except as specified in (b) of this section, mushroom species picked in the wild shall not be offered for sale or service by a food establishment unless the food establishment has been approved to do so. (b) This section does not apply to: 1. Cultivated wild mushroom species that are grown, harvested, and processed in an operation that is regulated by the food regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the operation; or 2. Wild mushroom species if they are in packaged form and are the product of a food processing plant that is regulated by the food regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the plant.
What is the Approval Process?
A mushroom identifier is required to successfully complete a course on identification of selected species of harvested mushrooms, in addition to the appropriate harvest, storage and preparation of those species. When selling the wild-harvested mushrooms, they must be able to show that the mushrooms have been inspected and identified by a certified mushroom identifier.
Individual harvesters or mushroom identifiers will not be required to receive a Food Sales Establishment License from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, if they are offering a raw/unprocessed agricultural commodity to the end consumer. If selling to a retail food sales establishment, the establishment must be licensed and adhere to record-keeping and traceability requirements, as well as labeling requirements. G-014 Revised June 16, 2018
When selling to a food service establishment (i.e. restaurant), please contact the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Record-keeping and Traceability
To facilitate a traceback in the case of a foodborne illness investigation, the food sales establishment must keep records (e.g. tag or label), provided by the approved wild mushroom identifier, which must include the following information: • Approved Mushroom Identifier Name; • Address & Phone Number; • Latin Binomial Name (Genus Species), and the Local or Common Name of the Mushroom; • Harvest Date; • Harvest Location (e.g., town, county, township, etc.); • Harvest Weight; and • Name of Forager, If Not Harvested By The Approved Identifier.
The tags/labels are to be attached to the original container in which the wild harvested mushrooms were received and stored, until the container is empty. These records must remain on file by the seller for at least 90 days from the last date of sale – when the container is emptied, or the product is otherwise discarded, and available upon request. This retention period accounts for potentially long asymptomatic latent periods (that can be up to 14 days from consumption). Diagnosis and investigation timeframes can take up to an additional 3 weeks.
Commingling of wild harvested mushroom lots is not recommended; as it serves to confound traceback and foodborne illness investigations, and could hinder efforts to remove implicated products from the food chain.
If you are interested in getting a mushroom identification course approved, please see our Criteria and Submission Requirements below.
Wild Harvested Mushroom Identifier Course Learning Objectives
Wild mushroom identifiers must successfully complete training recognized by the Department as described in the Criteria and Submission Requirements for Approval of Wild Harvested Mushroom Identifier Courses document. This training must meet the following learning objectives, including hands-on identifications of mushroom species native to the region.
Critical Learning Objective Elements Include:
- Illness Information;
- Best Handling Practices;
- Regulatory Requirements.
Illness Information (Symptoms, Cause and Prognosis)
- Identify foodborne illnesses associated with the consumption of wild harvested mushrooms, and the mushrooms which cause those symptoms.
- Describe the symptoms and the consequences of consuming poisonous mushroom species, specific to the region in which the mushrooms will be harvested.
- Describe the relevant anatomy of a mushroom as it relates to its identification.
- Demonstrate the use of keys in the identification of edible mushrooms, as well as their poisonous “look-a-likes.”
- Demonstrate accurate identification of edible species of mushrooms using physical specimens.
- Demonstrate ability to differentiate between edible species, and their poisonous “look-a-likes,” using physical specimens.
- Describe specific information regarding the habitat and seasonality in which mushrooms can be harvested, including areas that are considered inappropriate for harvest (treated areas, contaminated sites, etc.).
- Demonstrate proper collection and harvesting techniques.
- Describe the seasonality, locality, or relevant foraging differences, if any, between edible mushrooms and their poisonous “look-a-likes.”
- Describe picking area/conditions where mushrooms should not be harvested due to soil or other conditions that may lead to foodborne illness (ex. Feedlots, mushrooms that appear to be contaminated by birds or other animal species).
Best Handling Practices
- Recognize and describe the conditions and practices that could contribute to post harvest contamination.
- Describe storage and transportation methods that would prevent the contamination of mushrooms.
- Describe the relationship between personal hygiene and the potential for contamination that could contribute to foodborne illness.
- Explain that any post-harvesting mushroom processing (washing, cutting, slicing, etc.) removes the “raw agricultural commodity” designation. These processing/handling operations require a Food Sales Establishment License from the Department, and must be performed in a commercial kitchen. These practices are unacceptable under the Department’s Cottage Food License.
Criteria and Submission Requirements for Approval of Wild Harvested Mushroom Identifier Courses
Any course that would be used by a mushroom identifier to sell wild-harvested mushrooms in Georgia shall follow this criteria and submission requirements.
Rquirements for the Instructor
- Provide resume and references to establish that the person designing and teaching the course is a qualified mushroom identifier. This shall be documented with a minimum of one (1) letter of recommendation from either a college/university or mycological association official.
Requirements for the Course and Exam
- The course should be designed to meet ALL the objectives outlined in the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Wild Harvested Mushroom Identifier Course Learning Objectives document.
- The exam should demonstrate that all course objectives have been successfully met by the applicant.
- Provide all course materials including an agenda and the exam for review, along with the certification period, and any requirements for ongoing or continuing education to maintain certification.
Additional Requirements for Approval
- After completion of the course, a certificate including the applicant’s name and the specific types of wild mushrooms they are now certified to identify shall be provided to the individual.
- An electronic database of Wild Mushroom Identifiers; including Identifier’s Home Address, Training Date, Training Location, Certificate Expiration, and Mushroom Species endorsed on their certificates; shall be maintained by the course instructor. The database shall be provided to the Department following the completion and delivery of each training course offered, or upon Department request.
Please Submit all Supporting Documentation to:
Georgia Department of Agriculture
Food Safety Division
Retail Food Program Manager
19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4201