Salmonella outbreak linked to wood ear mushrooms has sickened 41 people

An outbreak of salmonella Stanley infections has been linked to wood ear mushrooms that were sold to restaurants.

The dried wood ear mushrooms were distributed by Wismettac Asian Foods, Inc., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and were sold only to restaurants. As of Sept. 24, there have been 41 cases of infection reported across 10 states, including four hospitalizations. There have been no deaths reported.

An investigation by the CDC found that illnesses began starting on Jan. 21, 2020, with those affected ranging in age from 2 to 74 years old. The CDC was able to interview 18 people about their potential exposures to determine how they became sick; 89% of those people said they ate ramen at a restaurant the week their symptoms started. Several people reported eating at the same restaurants, which the CDC said can indicate 'illness clusters,' which is defined as two or more people who do not live in the same household having the same experience that makes them ill.

Related: As of July 28, 938 cases have been reported, with at least 151 requiring hospitalization.

One illness cluster was found in California. When the California Department of Public Health collected and tested a sample of Wittsemic Asian Food Inc's dried mushrooms at an identified restaurant, salmonella was found. On Sept. 23, the company issued a recall of all potentially contaminated Shirakiku imported dried fungus.

The CDC recommends concerned diners ask restaurants where mushrooms have been sourced from before eating them. Restaurant employees should check their stock and make sure that any recalled mushrooms are thrown away. Any surfaces that the mushrooms may have come in contact with should be cleaned and sanitized.

Mushrooms were distributed to restaurants in six packs of five-pound bags labeled as Shirakiku brand Black Fungus (Kikurage) with Universal Product Code (UPC) bar code 00074410604305, item #60403, imported from China.

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The CDC has not named any of the restaurants that their investigation identified, including those at the center of illness clusters.

Symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps, developed within six hours to six days of being exposed to the bacteria. The illness typically lasts between four and seven days, and most recover without treatment. However, children younger than five years old, adults older than 65 years old, and people with weakened immune system are more likely to have a severe illness, and in some cases the illness may be severe enough to require hospitalization.

If you have symptoms of a salmonella infection, talk to your primary care physician and assemble a list of what you ate in the seven days before falling ill. Report your illness to your local health department and assist investigators by answering questions about your illness.

Other salmonella infections in recent months have affected backyard poultry, some peaches, and some onions.