Written by Dennis Walker
The most pressing matter in the multibillion dollar global mushroom industry has been definitively settled: Mycelium on Grain is superior to Fruiting Body Mushrooms. If we’re talking about production costs, that is.
Because it’s much cheaper to produce a ton of mycelium on grain and package it as ‘functional mushrooms’ than it is to actually deliver a fruiting body mushroom product. And when a company can advertise their mycelium on grain as ‘mushrooms’, how would the average consumer know what they’re actually getting?
For anybody unaware of this conundrum, there are a number of companies and celebrated fungi spokespeople who sell mushroom supplements derived from myceliated oats rather than the actual fruiting body of the mushroom. Mycelium is a completely different part of a fungal organism’s life cycle than the mushroom, and products sold under ‘mushroom’ labeling are essentially a hodge podge of fungal biomass and substrate which lack the active compounds and research-backed benefits of fruiting body mushrooms.
It’s also interesting that none of the mycopreneurs or companies hawking mycelium products advocate for the use of mycelium in the microdosing research that they’re doing. And if anyone can find any culture throughout the 4,000 year plus history of medicinal mushroom use that corroborates the value of mycelium on grain, please forward the research to me.
This is a huge issue in the mushroom industry, and one which has divided mycopreneurs for years. In an effort to settle this matter, industry leader Nammex has filed a Citizen Petition to the FDA to ensure more specificity regarding the labeling of mushroom products.
“Given the explosive growth the mushroom category is undergoing and entry of new companies marketing products with fungal ingredients that may not be aware of the regulatory requirements, it made sense to undertake this action now. We hope to raise awareness of the mislabeling problem that exists today in the US, and obtain FDA regulatory guidance on the labeling of mushrooms and other fungal ingredients to ensure truth-in-labeling,” states Jeff Chilton, founder of Nammex. “When consumers buy a product labeled as “mushroom”, they should feel confident that they are getting a genuine mushroom product.”
“Citizen Petitions provide a public forum through which interested parties can request FDA to issue or amend a regulation or take other administrative action,” says Holly Bayne, Nammex’s regulatory counsel. “As the petition has made clear, remedial action from FDA is warranted, including revisions to the agency’s compliance policies to ensure foods and dietary supplements containing fungal ingredients are accurately labeled and not misbranded. We look forward to engaging with FDA on this important issue.”
A consortium of stakeholders including representatives from Fungi Perfecti, LLC, M2 ingredients Inc., Gourmet Mushrooms Inc., and Monterrey Mushrooms Inc. issued an open letter in response to Nammex’s petition to the FDA. The letter in it’s entirety is provided below:
“Although Fungi Perfecti, LLC, M2 Ingredients Inc., Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc., and Monterey Mushrooms Inc. are competitors, we are unified to emphasize the importance of conveying scientifically accurate information to the public, to FDA, and to other thought leaders in the field. From this standpoint we are responding to the puzzling opinion presented in the recent FDA Citizen Petition submitted by Nammex, and find that their position obfuscates the use of well-established mycological definitions.
In this Citizen Petition, Nammex advocates to eliminate the use of the word ‘mushroom’ in products using mushroom mycelium. Our collective use of ‘mushroom mycelium’ is scientifically accurate, just as the use of ‘mushroom spores’, ‘mushroom fruit bodies’ are descriptively accurate. The word “mushroom” describes the organism itself, whereas terms like “mycelium” and “fruit body” refer to distinct parts of the mushroom organism. This is perfectly parallel to saying ‘plant roots’, ‘plant seeds/spores’, and ‘plant flowers’. Both sets of terminologies describe the parts of the organism. To propose the elimination of the word “mushroom” (again, the name of the organism), results in confusion; for example, “mycelium” on its own would not distinguish mold mycelium from mushroom mycelium. Below The Mushroom Life Cycle diagram, as it appears in The Mushroom Cultivator by Paul Stamets & Jeff Chilton, depicts clearly-named stages of the mushroom life cycle.”