Vitamin D fortified mushrooms to hit Aussie shelves

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 7th September 2010

champignon mushroomSouth Australian Agriculture and Food Minister Michael O’Brien said last night that moves towards vitamin D fortified mushrooms would bolster the South Australian mushroom industry, an important supplier for Australia’s second-biggest vegetable crop.

The Australian Mushroom Growers Association said in May that the industry was preparing to adopt the new fortification technology, which raises vitamin D levels in mushrooms by exposing them to flashes of UV light. While wild mushrooms are exposed to the sun naturally, commercially grown mushrooms are usually grown in the dark.

“Mushrooms have been grown in the dark in modern times simply because they don’t need the sun to actually grow,” AMGA spokesman Greg Seymour told the ABC.

“What we didn’t realise from some recent research is that they need the sun to make Vitamin D, just like you and me.

“Vitamin D insufficiency is a big thing in Australia. Fifty per cent of the population for 50 per cent of the year don’t have enough Vitamin D.”

O’Brien said South Australian mushroom farmers were growing a reputation for innovation and quality on the domestic market, in addition to South Australia producing $88 million worth of mushrooms each year.

South Australian mushroom growers Adelaide Mushrooms and Fresh Fields Mushrooms had previously expressed interest in adopting the UV technology, which has been in use in the United States for several years.

O’Brien noted that mushrooms were now the second most valuable vegetable crop in Australia, after potatoes, with a farm gate value of $250 million and a retail value of almost $500 million nationwide.

There are no imports of fresh mushrooms into Australia. Imports consist mainly of canned product from China.

“The mushroom industry has been identified as one of the three fastest growing crop industries established in Australia since the 1950s,” O’Brien said.

“Domestic production has expanded at an average annual rate of 10 percent a year from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s.”

Australian annual per capita mushroom consumption was only 0.6kg in 1974 and has increased to over 3kg today, which is higher than most other western countries.