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Deadly Morel Mushroom Illness Outbreak in Montana Linked to Undercooking at Restaurant

In the beautiful hills of Montana last spring, a deadly illness outbreak left many residents unwell and even caused two deaths. Federal agencies were drawn into investigating how consuming morel mushrooms from a local restaurant led to such severe consequences.

Morels are a prized wild edible mushroom that people eagerly await each year during a small spring harvest window. Known for their honeycomb texture and woodsy flavor, they are a special treat on some fine dining menus. Last year, a popular sushi restaurant in Bozeman promoted morels on its menu, not knowing it would spark a health crisis.

In late March and April 2023, over 50 patrons of the restaurant fell violently ill with vomiting and diarrhea after eating there. Tragically, two individuals with underlying conditions did not survive. Local officials were alarmed and brought in the CDC to uncover the root of these illnesses.

Through interviews and record analysis, investigators pieced together that the implicated morels were imported fresh from China and also distributed to establishments in California. However, only those eaten at the Montana restaurant led to sickness. The key difference appeared to be preparation method – in Montana they were served lightly cooked or raw, while in California thorough cooking ensured safety.

It seems the culprit was undercooking, which allows toxins naturally found in some wild mushrooms to persist and cause harm. While morels are usually safe to consume, proper handling like refrigeration below 40F and complete cooking are important precautions recommended. Foragers should also be 100% certain of identifying true morels and avoiding any look-alike varieties that could cause issues even after cooking.

This unfortunate event highlights that when consuming wild foods, preparation practices matter greatly for well-being. Though morels offer an exciting taste of the woods, mild risk can turn severe without adhering to preparation guidelines – a lesson that may save lives for those taking part in the growing trend of wild foraging.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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