morel mushroomsAn anti-regulation bill that would have eliminated a training requirement for people selling wild mushrooms to food establishments in Michigan has been vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The measure, HB 5532, was approved along party lines by the Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives and Senate — 57-52 in the House and 26-11 with one not voting in the Senate. The GOP governor did not agree with the GOP legislators.

Locavores and the highly toxic nature of many mushroom species combined to give Snyder all the motivation he needed to get out his veto pen.

“With the increased popularity of local foods over the past several years, there has been a significant increase in the demand for wild mushrooms by food establishments, wholesalers and processors,” Snyder said in his Jan. 5 veto letter. “The requirement for wild mushroom pickers to be experts has been in the FDA Food Code which Michigan adopts by reference since 2000.

“Despite this, there has been an increase in poisonings in Michigan related to morels. Consequently, a formal certification course was developed in 2015 to assure that individuals picking wild mushrooms to sell to food businesses could identify safe vs. toxic mushroom varieties. This certification is good for five years. It is important that wild mushrooms entering our food supply meet the same high safety standards as other products and ingredients.”

Snyder’s veto letter said he appreciates the legislature’s desire to streamline food safety regulations and that he would continue discussions. However, he also pointed out a problem with the mushroom bill language that suggests he won’t take food safety discussions lightly.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

“Further, by simply using the lay term ‘morel’ in the bill rather than specifying the particular organisms qualified for exemption — in this case Marcella species — (the legislation) would have the unintended consequence of including species in addition to morels for exemption from the certification process.”

The man behind the bill, Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, responded to the governor’s veto the same day it was penned, saying he was “profoundly disappointed.” Cole invoked the spirits of generations of mushroom hunters as well as the livelihood of small businesses in his response.

“The Michigan Department of Agriculture’s concern with a practice that has taken place for generations by morel mushroom enthusiasts is egregious. It is a flawed, bureaucratic process implemented by a department to over-regulate businesses and hinder their ability to add this unique delicacy to their menu,” Cole’s said in a written statement.

“This legislation was brought about by local restauranteurs that were and are continuing to struggle to purchase fresh picked, seasonal morel mushrooms. I continue to have the upmost respect and confidence that our chefs know what they are purchasing, preserving and preparing for food enthusiasts.”

Cole said he was “in communication with the governor’s office” to find a solution.

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