Current Update on Morel Mushroom Outbreak: December 19, 2023
The investigation into the dangerous morel mushroom outbreak at Dave’s Sushi, one that began in late March or early April of this year, is still ongoing. Thus far, 2 have been killed and 51 sickened, leaving authorities scrambling, and working hard to identify the source of the toxin that has made all of these people ill. After some investigation, it was found that the morel mushrooms served with many of the popular dishes at the restaurant was the culprit, although it what, exactly, was in the mushrooms that was making people ill remains elusive. Even after thorough testing, no heavy metals, pesticides, toxins, or pathogens were identified within the samples of morel mushrooms taken from the restaurant.
Unfortunately, this just goes to show how little we truly know about morel mushrooms, and subsequently the threat they may pose to those who consume them.
Morel Mushrooms: They May be More Dangerous than We Thought
What is clear is that authorities have found an epidemiological link, or a causal relationship, between those who consumed amounts of the morel mushrooms with those who contracted gastrointestinal illness (e.g. diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal cramping). The mushrooms were statistically indicated as a match to a certain degree of certainty, using commonly accepted methodology among health agencies. This statistical relationship is without doubt, and it is also common knowledge that certain mushrooms can often be toxic to humans. What authorities do not know, however, is what specific toxin causes these problems or how and why it was present in this particular batch of morel mushrooms.
Interestingly, the mushrooms that were served to the customers who became ill at Dave’s Sushi were also either served raw or only “slightly” cooked, a factor that most definitely played a role in making people ill. This fact is established by the fact that the same morel mushrooms were served at other restaurants, but were cooked. These restaurants had no reports of illness.
Apparently the pathogen or condition of the morel mushrooms that made people sick was susceptible to a kill step (heat, in this case) meaning it was likely a living pathogen (like a bacteria or virus) or the contaminate was otherwise susceptible to heat.
How Much do We Know About Morel Mushrooms?
Unfortunately, there has not been an abundance of research conducted, as reflected in published medical literature, on morel mushrooms and the danger they pose to the public. As a national food poisoning attorney said, “We haven’t had many outbreaks related to morel mushrooms (up until now), but this definitely serves as a stark reminder that they are not to be trifled with.” Ron Simon added that his Dave’s Sushi lawsuit, filed on behalf of one of the deceased victims, will be spending a great deal of time trying to get to the “why” in this outbreak.
Given how little we know, the best way to remain safe when consuming this product is, for one, making sure it is cooked. The evidence suggests that boiling them, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, is ideal. Heating them in a stir-fry, it would suggest, may also prevent any illness. Even so, there is always an inherent risk, regardless of the preparation. Therefore, it is extremely important to (1) remain cautious when consuming morel mushrooms, (2) avoid them if you or a loved one has a compromised immune system, and (3) to most definitely contact your local health provider if you or a loved one becomes ill after consuming them.