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Real Truth About Wood Ear Mushroom Poisoning

Are you surprised by the news of wood ear mushroom poisoning a few years back and now fearful of eating them altogether?

Generally, wood ear mushroom poisoning occurs due to harmful pathogens found in outdated products. However, this mushroom type does not naturally bear any disease, nor is it harmful for consumption.

However, you must be careful when buying, storing, and eating wood ear mushrooms.

Read on to discover what may have caused the poisoning and ways to avoid it.

What Are Wood Ear Mushrooms?

The mature wood ear mushroom looks like the human ear, hence the name, but is often referred to as black fungus, cloud ear, or tree ear fungus.

You could tell it by the reddish brown and grayish black shade with earlike cup-shaped growing on rotting wood to a size of 1-6 inches. The undersides are lighter than the outer, which has a finely-haired appearance.

This weird-looking mushroom is found in many countries today. But it only grows in a few places in an appropriate substrate for best results.

wood ear mushroom on wood
Did you know it was first cultivated around 600 AD in China and boasts a rich history of culinary and medicinal uses?

Do not confuse it for a cup fungus that looks similar but has a rubbery taste. However, wood ear mushroom has a more earthy and mild taste.

Benefits of Eating Wood Ear Mushroom

Unlike death caps, consuming wood ear mushrooms comes with many health benefits.

  • The B complex vitamins and bio-active compounds such as polysaccharides help keep cholesterol levels in check.
  • Adenosine in mushrooms helps with blood clotting, blood pressure, and heart health.
  • It is rich in antioxidants, which help prevent the risk of degenerative disorders.
  • β-glucan exopolysaccharides help stimulate the immune system to protect against bacteria.
  • It also contains pre-biotic fibers, which help in digestive health.

Wood Ear Mushroom Poisoning Risk

You will find three types of wood ear mushrooms: Auricularia heimuer, Auricularia cornea, and Tremella fuciformis, all of which are edible.

Although they might look suspicious with their appearance and dark color, these mushrooms are safe to eat when properly cleaned.

An instance of wood ear mushroom poisoning occurred in 2020, with 55 people infected with the Salmonella Stanley outbreak in 12 different states.

The Center for Disease Control report claimed that the outbreak occurred from consuming recalled or outdated mushrooms used in preparing noodles in a Chinese restaurant.

Salmonella poisoning may cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps lasting 4-7 days or longer without treatment.

wood ear mushroom as food
Remember to buy from a certified source and clean thoroughly before cooking.

Moreover, properly cleaning the mushrooms and discarding old products is necessary to avoid the risk of Pseudomonas Cocovenans bacteria, which produces the toxic bongkrekic acid with similar effects.

How to Safely Use Wood Ear Mushroom

To avoid the risk of poisoning, carefully handle the wood ear mushrooms.

  • Start with buying mushrooms from reputable stores and check the producer source and expiration date.
  • Check for some signs of spoilage, such as mold or foul odor.
  • Rehydrate the mushrooms by soaking in a water bowl for 20-30 minutes.
  • Drain and scrub the mushrooms properly to remove any residual debris.

From Editorial Team 


Depending on your cooking recipe, you can slice them into small pieces for hot and sour soup, stir-fry with veggies, or add to noodles.

Remember, as long as they are fresh and come from credible sources, they are good to eat.