(Oct. 23) HOUSTON — The world’s largest mushroom producer is adopting a new process that may revolutionize the industry by making the mushroom a functional food.

By dosing mushrooms with ultraviolet rays for about five minutes after harvest, Monterey Mushrooms Inc. will be able to greatly boost vitamin D2 levels in mushrooms, said president and chief executive officer Shah Kazemi.

Each serving would contain about 800% of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance, he said. However, the product would be marketed as containing 100% of the RDA, Kazemi said.

“Not only does Vitamin D2 have good benefits, it is essential for the body to synthesize Vitamin C,” he said. “The other ways to get Vitamin D are by eating chicken liver and getting exposure to the sun. Not everyone can be out in the sun, so this should have some good applications.”

Kazemi said his Watsonville, Calif.-based firm would make the product available commercially in January.

The typical white button mushroom will look a little different after UV exposure, said vice president of marketing Joe Caldwell.

“Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light develop a tan, just like people do when exposed to UV rays in sunshine,” Caldwell said, adding that means only brown mushrooms will carry elevated levels of Vitamin D.

The research behind the process was partially funded by the Mushroom Council, San Jose, Calif. Preliminary findings were first reported to a Food and Drug Administration science forum in April 2006, and the findings have generated some positive press in consumer media such as Looking Fit magazine and MSNBC.com.

Firm to give its mushrooms a vitamin blast
Shah Kazemi, president and chief executive officer of Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif., holds one of the company’s microwaveable mushroom bags along with the PMA Impact award the product line received at Fresh Summit 2007 in Houston.