Among the many varieties of mushrooms available, enoki mushrooms stands out due to their distinctive appearance, mild flavour with crisp texture. First cultivated in Japan, this popular fungus has become very popular in East Asian cuisines, and is typically used as an ingredient in soups, hotpots, stews, and stir-fries. However, poor preparation of this mushroom poses serious food safety risks arising from pathogenic bacteria.
Fried noodle photo created by jcomp - www.freepik.com
What are the food safety risks and where do they come from?
During cultivation, these mushrooms may be contaminated with bacteria from the environment, which can multiply in the favourable growth conditions provided. One of these potential contaminants is Listeria monocytogenes, which is known to cause listeriosis, a serious – and possibly fatal – bacterial infection when handled and consumed improperly. This can be especially dangerous for the elderly and immunocompromised individuals.
These hardy microbes can also survive and grow at refrigeration temperatures, which makes their presence particularly concerning. Although these mushrooms are typically sold in vacuum packs, L. monocytogenes can survive in the absence of oxygen. Fortunately, the bacteria can be killed at temperatures above 50°C, so it is important that enoki mushrooms are properly cooked before consumption.
What is SFA doing to reduce food safety risks from L. monocytogenes?
SFA conducts inspections, sampling and tests to ensure that the food sold in Singapore conforms to the food regulations. Food that is found to be non-compliant with our safety standards will not be allowed for sale. As food safety is a joint responsibility, the monitoring of food in our markets allow for quicker responses from all stakeholders (government, food industry and consumers) to contain possible outbreaks promptly. At the same time, SFA is also actively monitoring reports of L. monocytogenes contaminated food in other countries, so that targeted sampling and testing and/or rapid recalls of affected products can be conducted.
Good Food Safety Practices
Food safety is a joint responsibility. Consumers are encouraged to follow these food safety tips when handling enoki mushrooms.
DO NOT eat raw enoki mushrooms
Cook the enoki mushrooms thoroughly before consumption
Follow the cooking instructions on the packaging, if available
Store the enoki mushrooms in the refrigerator to limit microbial growth, even if the packaging is still intact
Ensure the separation of raw enoki mushrooms from other cooked food, to prevent cross-contamination
About the Author
Dr Tan Yong Quan is a Scientist from the Risk Assessment and Communications Department of the National Centre for Food Science. With a PhD in Synthetic Biology and Biochemistry from the National University of Singapore, Dr Tan is currently responsible for all matters related to genetically-engineered food, and new food sources and production systems.