(May 28, 4:00 p.m.) Dole Food Co. Inc. is focusing on nutrition with its release of its Portobello Mushroom packs, with high levels of vitamin D, available in some markets starting June 1.

The Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole offers whole and sliced in 6-ounce packaging, primarily in Eastern and Southern markets, said Bil Goldfield, communications manager.

To boost the natural value of vitamin D in the mushrooms, the company exposes them to an intense burst of light similar to that of a camera flash for less than a second, said Gary Schroeder, director of Dole Mushrooms and president of Oakshire Mushroom Farm Inc., Kennett Square, Pa., which supplies Dole-brand mushrooms.

The company is waiting for a patent for the process, Goldfield said.

Research released to the industry in 2006 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which indicated light raises the vegetable’s vitamin D level, prompted Dole’s new process, Schroeder said.

“Nature is trying to do this, and we’re just allowing it to happen,” Schroeder said.

Research suggests vitamin D can help minimize the risk of colon, breast and ovarian cancers and Type I diabetes, Goldfield said.

Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif., also has produced a sliced baby brown portabella boasting 100% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D, which it began test marketing in May on the West Coast, said Michael Stephan, Monterey’s director of central region sales.

The vitamin D levels within Monterey’s sliced baby browns are activated by ultraviolet rays, and the company plans to introduce vitamin D-enhanced brown and white mushrooms in August in parts of the country, Stephan said.

Mushrooms naturally offer 4% of the recommended daily vitamin D allowance, said Margo Kraus, nutrition consultant for the Mushroom Council, San Jose, Calif.

The human body is naturally capable of generating Vitamin D through sun stimulation, but deficiency is still common, particularly among seniors and people with dark skins and also is reportedly increasing among children, Goldfield said.

Kraus said she was unaware of any companies besides Dole and Monterey Mushrooms bringing a mushroom with increased vitamin D content to the market.

Dole mushrooms pack a vitamin D boost
For its new Portobello Mushroom packs, Dole exposes the mushrooms to an intense burst of light for less than a second, thus boosting the natural value of vitamin D in the mushrooms, says Gary Schroeder, director of Dole Mushrooms and president of Oakshire Mushroom Farm Inc.