The CDC has linked the listeria outbreak to enoki mushrooms.
Popular in East Asian cuisine, enoki mushrooms are known for their white color, thin stems and small mushroom caps. Enoki mushrooms are commonly sold by the root in bundles, usually wrapped in plastic or held together by a rubber band.
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The CDC began investigating the first U.S. listeria outbreak in 2020, which was linked to four deaths and 36 hospitalizations. This resulted in three recalls of enoki mushrooms imported from South Korea. Consequently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and public health officials discovered listeria in several samples of the mushroom, resulting in over 20 recalls of enoki mushrooms.
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Although the source of the enoki mushrooms that caused the listeria outbreak has not yet been identified, the outbreak strain has been detected in one of the samples collected by the FDA.
Listeria is a bacterial infection that is “usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes,” CDC reports. It can cause severe illness when spread beyond the gut, potentially resulting in hospitalization or death. Those who are pregnant, over the age of 65 or have a weakened immune system present a higher risk for severe illness.
Symptoms of a severe illness usually start two weeks after consuming the contaminated food but can present themselves the day of or up to 10 weeks after consumption. However, those with less severe infections may present symptoms of mild food poisoning, which does not require treatment for recovery.
The CDC suggests these forms of action for those at higher risk:
“Do not eat raw enoki mushrooms. Cook enoki mushrooms thoroughly.”
“Keep raw enoki mushrooms separate from foods that won’t be cooked.”
“Wash your hands after handling raw enoki mushrooms” and clean surfaces that the mushrooms have touched.
“Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of severe Listeria illness.”
Restaurants are also instructed to not serve raw enoki mushrooms, keep the raw mushrooms away from other foods that will not be cooked, and adhere to the FDA’s safe handling and cleaning advice.
As of this writing, there have been two confirmed cases reported by the CDC: one in Nevada and another in Michigan. An investigation is ongoing.
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