Imported Korean enoki mushrooms sprout listeriosis concerns in Indonesia

Enoki mushrooms. Photo: Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Enoki mushrooms. Photo: Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Indonesian government has ordered the recall and destruction of enoki mushroom products from South Korean company Green Co. Ltd, after an official investigation found samples containing the bacteria that cause listeriosis. 

A listeria outbreak recently occurred in the United States, Canada, and Australia due to consumption of enoki mushrooms from South Korea, which health and food safety officials found to have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. 

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), a food security network under the United Nations and the World Health Organization, notified Indonesian officials of the outbreak in April, eventually leading to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Food Security Agency (BKP) to order the recall and destruction of enoki mushrooms supplied by Green Co. Ltd. 

The same company has been traced back as the likely source of the outbreak in the US as well, which caused the deaths of four people.

“To date there are no cases due to bacterial contamination from those enoki mushrooms. The steps that have been taken by the Ministry of Agriculture are preventive measures,” BKP Head Agung Hendriadi said in a statement published yesterday.

In addition, the agency has requested the Agricultural Quarantine Agency to increase their monitoring and conduct more investigation as preventive measures. 

Prior to the conclusion of their initial investigation, officials had instructed importers to cease distribution of the mushrooms and to separate enoki mushrooms imported from Green Co. Ltd and return them to the distributors to be handled further.

Importers were also asked to implement sanitation measures to avoid cross contamination, conducting laboratory tests if needed, as well as registering their products to the Central Food Safety Competent Authority (OKKPP).

Lab results from the official investigation in Indonesia eventually found that the enoki mushrooms from Green Co Ltd. did contain Listeria monocytogenes, a species of pathogenic bacteria that causes listeriosis. 

While it is said to be widespread in agricultural environments, the bacteria is usually found in raw or pasteurized fluid milk, raw meats, and raw vegetables, among others. The bacteria can grow at cold temperatures as low as 0 degrees celsius, therefore it has a potential for cross contamination toward other food items that are stored together with the contaminated ones. 

Listeriosis, the infection caused by the bacteria, can be potentially fatal for people with weak immune systems, pregnant women, and people above 65 years of age. Several common symptoms of the bacterial infection including fever, dizziness, muscle ache, and diarrhea.

If you happen to have stored enoki mushrooms by Green Co. Ltd or just want to be safe from potential infection, you can follow the sanitary steps published by CDC.


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