CDC: Avoid Enoki Mushrooms Due to Listeria Concerns

enoki mushrooms in Japanese dish

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Key Takeaways

  • Enoki mushrooms may be contaminated with listeria.
  • Listeria can cause symptoms like diarrhea or fever. In high-risk individuals, complications can be more severe or life-threatening.
  • Some experts recommend that all individuals avoid enoki mushrooms until the outbreak is contained.

Because enoki mushrooms currently pose a risk of listeria contamination, experts advise avoiding them during the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations.

With 20 recalls since 2020, enoki mushrooms have been one of the most recalled foods over the past few years. The latest recall of Utopia Foods enoki mushrooms is unlikely to be the last.

“It is not clear that we have seen the end of the outbreak or the extent,” James. E. Rogers, PhD, the Director of Food Safety Research and Testing at Consumer Reports, told Verywell in an email.

As of January 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported three illnesses and three hospitalizations linked to the Utopia Foods enoki mushrooms listeria outbreak. A previous recall of three enoki mushroom brands in June 2020 was associated with 31 hospitalizations and four deaths.

Listeria infections (listeriosis) can cause symptoms similar to other foodborne illnesses, like diarrhea or fever. In the case of invasive listeria, which occurs when the bacteria spreads outside the gut, symptoms may not occur until weeks later. It can result in headaches, confusion, and convulsions. Pregnant people and people with weakened immune systems are also at a greater risk for pregnancy loss, hospitalizations, and death.

Can You Kill Listeria by Cooking Mushrooms?

Enoki mushrooms are popular in hot pot and stir-fry dishes, and the CDC indicates that cooking the mushrooms can kill listeria. However, Rogers said it still presents a food safety risk.

“The issues with trying to ‘cook it out’ are that not everyone will cook it properly to remove or kill the pathogen, and there is always the concern of cross-contamination during preparation,” Rogers said.

Rogers added that he tends to be “extremely conservative” when it comes to outbreaks of foodborne pathogens. However, the CDC only recommends completely avoiding the recalled enoki mushrooms and cooking other brands thoroughly.

The investigation into contaminated enoki mushrooms is still ongoing, and updates can be found on the CDC website.

If you have raw enoki mushrooms in your kitchen that are not recalled and that you plan to use, store them away from other foods that will be consumed raw to prevent cross-contamination.

High-Risk Groups Should Avoid All Raw Enoki Mushrooms

While anyone can experience listeria food poisoning, pregnant people, people with weakened immune systems, and people over the age of 65 face greater health risks. These include meningitis, miscarriages, stillbirths, and newborn deaths.

The CDC recommends high-risk individuals avoid all raw enoki mushrooms—even from brands that have not been recalled. Otherwise, high-risk individuals should wash their hands after handling raw enoki mushrooms and clean anything that the enoki mushrooms touch, since listeria can easily spread to surfaces.

“I would advise that consumers avoid these types of mushrooms altogether and substitute different ones for their recipes until it is clear from our regulatory agencies that this outbreak has been declared over,” Rogers said.

What This Means For You

Listeria infections are especially concerning for pregnant people, people with weakened immune systems, and people over the age of 65. Contact your trusted healthcare provider right away if you have a fever, muscle aches, or feel tired after consuming enoki mushrooms.

2 Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Listeria outbreak linked to enoki mushrooms.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Listeria (listeriosis): Questions and answers.