15 May 2013

Selling Morel Mushrooms -- Laws

This is a little off topic of my typical education blog, but I think this is biological information that is sort of a current event in my section of the world.
I recently discovered that the FDA has begun regulating the sell of "mushroom species picked in the wild." Many states have their own laws regulating the sell of mushrooms, but I have not been able to find anything specific for Missouri (my residence).

This issue became important to me because a friend of mine has been warned by a concerned individual that they could be breaking the law by selling the Morel mushrooms that they have harvested in the wild. I did some research and figured out that they aren't joking. The FDA is really trying to regulate wild mushrooms.

In chapter 3, subsection 201.16 of the FDA Food code (latest publishing is 2009 at the time of this blog) it states:

3-201.16 Wild Mushrooms.

  1. (A) Except as specified in ¶ (B) of this section, mushroom species picked in the wild shall be obtained from sources where each mushroom is individually inspected and found to be safe by an approvedmushroom identification expert. P
  2. (B) This section does not apply to:
    1. (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. (2) Wild mushroom species if they are in packaged form and are the product of a food processing plantthat is regulated by the food regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the plant.

The conference for food protection points out the loop hole in this law, "There are currently no standards by which a Regulatory Authority can certify that individuals who collect, inspect and sell wild harvested mushrooms are competent in mushroom identification."
I think this means, that if you're certain you know what kind of mushroom you have collected and if you are certain that it's safe, then quite possibly, you are an expert and have some degree of freedom concerning this particular subsection of the FDA food code.
Why would the FDA be so concerned? Well, there are several kinds of mushrooms and some of them are great tasting and nutritious, but others can be poisonous. For example, in the spring time in Missouri, several locals will go out and collect morel mushrooms. This tradition goes back several generations, but what you might not know is that there is a species of mushrooms that look like morels, but are very poisonous.

With that said, it is important to note a few things. I don't know very much about mushrooms, but I do know what a morel is. I can identify a morel, cook a morel, and eat a morel. Does that make me an "identification expert"? Well, I don't know. But I know the difference between good morels and mushrooms that only look like morels, but are actually poisonous. These "False Morels" have a few identifying characteristics. First, while morels have hollow stems, false morels have a very dense stem.
Picture obtained from http://morelmushroomhunting.com/redmorel.htm is representative of a "False morel" and dangerous to eat.
False Morels come from a family called, "Gyromitra" They produce a toxin that do not affect some people, but can cause death in others.

A "True" Morel has a hollow middle as shown in the picture below.

There is a great article on this at The Great Morel if you are interested in learning to identify false morels.


  1. Ever find out any answers about this? I'm a chef in Missouri and love wild mushrooms, especially hunting them, but can't put them on my menu even if I'm absolutely sure what it is. Trying to find out how to get certified but there is no info. Help!!!!

  2. I found this info about getting your mushrooms certified in Missouri hope this helps.

  3. In Missouri:

  4. Check out the Missouri Mycological Society. My husband and I both were recently certified by them in a 3 hour identification class for chanterelles. They also offer one for morels.