VEGA News Item

Dark Clouds over Mushrooms Production and Provenance - 26/08/2005
Veggies, organics, free rangers, environmentalists, and animal welfarists - keen compost-makers all - connive at some bad practices when they buy commercial mushrooms for the table or poultry manure for their gardens. Revisions of DEFRA's stipulations for animal and vegetable wastes as substrated for mushroom-growers must be amplified with information and labelling for benighted customers faced with choices cultivated like the fungi in the dark.

VEGA gives advice on a DEFRA consultation.

Re: Consultation on Mushroom Composting Processes (second review)

1. The contents of the Process Guidance Note 6/30 (05) are praiseworthily comprehensive, but we note omission of specific concern for the workers involved in the preparation and use of the substrates and the risks to them of insidious adaptation to what might at first sniff be rated offensive odors. Hydrogen sulfide is notorious in this respect. Provision of special kit and routine blood tests should be provided and continuous monitoring of effluvia in covered areas should be maintained.

2. Definition and usage of the word animal requires clarification. The zoological term covers the range from humans to coral. It includes flies and other insects.

3. Traceability of animal wastes must be recorded with full description of the treatments with drugs and growth and production promoters – and therefore the risk of residues and breakdown products – that the animals have received. Manures may have been treated with fly repellents. In some systems flycides are added to feeds so that they pass unchanged through the animals’ guts and emerge in the manure with supposedly specific toxicity to flies. Aftermaths of BSE and foot-and-mouth disease and threat of transmissions of zoonoses in various ways, which would include movements of wildlife and commensals, call for strict application of traceability. Food-borne diseases typical in products of animal origin may turn up in vegetable crops grown and processed in most organic conditions.

4. Changes in the mushroom industry and in the provenance and variety of the crop demand increased stipulations on labelling and information for customers, some of whom may be competent compost-makers but oblivious to practices in mushroom production and applications of spent compost to which they would wish to object. Customers deserving such information and grounds for well-versed choice would be those professing free-ranging, organic, environmental, vegetarian and animal welfare concerns, as well as misgivings over particular pesticide residues.

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