Organisers of an inaugural mushroom festival have insisted the celebration will be a success despite consumer trepidation in the wake of a widely publicised case of suspected death cap poisoning.
The Australian Mushroom Festival is set for its debut at Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Markets on October 14 and 15.
It will fall about three months after a suspected death cap mushroom poisoning incident that claimed the lives of three people in the small Victorian town of Leongatha.
Erin Patterson, 48, hosted the family lunch in which she reportedly served a mixture of supermarket-bought button mushrooms and also dried mushrooms, bought from an Asian grocer, to her relatives.
It’s suspected the mushrooms, which Ms Patterson cooked into a beef wellington, caused her guests to fall ill.
Gail and Don Patterson, Ms Patterson’s former in-laws, and Heather Wilkinson, Gail’s sister, died following the lunch, while Gail’s husband, Ian Wilkinson, remains in hospital.
Ms Patterson has repeatedly maintained that she only used the aforementioned store-bought fungi in preparing the meal.
Since the incident, however, mushroom sales have dropped by up to 10 per cent, suggesting consumers have grown wary of the vegetable.
Australian Mushroom Growers Association (AMGA) Georgia Beattie told the ABC’s RN Breakfast that the drop in sales was not at “a point where it’s of concern”, but farmers were “keeping an eye” on the situation.
“We’ve got world-leading standards to produce food in Australia, so consumers can have confidence in that,” she said.
“Mushrooms are caught up in the wrong crowd at the moment.”
October’s Mushroom Festival promises to offer a “sensational range of stalls featuring mighty mushrooms”, as per its website.
Patrons are invited to “support Australian mushroom growers by coming along to the Mushroom Festival for a weekend full of fungi and fun”.
It’s expected that guest speakers at the event will discuss the lethal Leongatha lunch and its impact on growers and the industry.
Ms Beattie has reassured consumers that it is “actually impossible” for death cap mushrooms to wind up in Australia’s button mushroom supply chain.
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