Consumer survey commissioned by Nammex shows what consumers perceive as mushrooms


Consumer survey commissioned by Nammex shows what consumers perceive as mushrooms, mostly failing to identify fungi by their component parts.

Photo © srichaichana

Photo © srichaichana

Nammex recently announced the results of a survey the company commissioned of 10,000 people in the U.S. investigating their understanding of mushroom terminology. Respondents were asked if they knew what a “fruiting body” was, of which 71.5% said they did not. Similarly, when shown photographs of a variety of mushrooms and asked what they are, 90.1% identified them as mushrooms, while 12.43% identified them as fungi, and only 2.8% identified them as fruiting bodies. When respondents were shown a photograph of mycelium growing on a grain substrate in a plastic bag, 79.3% did not identify it as a mushroom.

“We commissioned this survey as a logical extension of our campaign for clarity and accuracy in mushroom product labeling,” said Skye Chilton, CEO of Nammex, in a press release. “While the industry debates whether or not it’s acceptable to state or imply that mycelium-containing products are mushrooms, we thought knowing what consumers actually think was important information for the industry to have.”

Nammex recently filed a citizen petition asking the Food and Drug Administration to “to address the mislabeling of dietary supplements and functional foods as ‘mushroom’ or containing ‘mushrooms’ when they contain other fungal parts, and do not contain ‘mushrooms’ as claimed, or fail to disclose added grain ingredients.”

Nammex argues that while FDA’s current labeling guide acknowledges the distinction between mushrooms and mycelium, it is not sufficiently clear or transparent to consumers what is in the product when companies use the term “mushroom mycelium.” Instead, the company advocates for manufacturers identifying the specific fungi the mycelium comes from, such as “shiitake mycelium” or “reishi mycelium.” Other mushroom stakeholders argue that "mushroom" described the entire organism, fruiting body and mycelium, and therefore it’s not inaccurate to describe something as “mushroom mycelium.” Nammex makes the argument that in practice, consumers do not understand the distinction between mycelium, fruiting bodies, or the component breakdown of a mushroom. To consumers, the fruiting body, as experts understand them, are simply mushrooms, full stop.

“This data confirms that the vast majority of consumers have a fairly specific idea of what constitutes a mushroom, and it’s not myceliated grain,” said Chilton. “As we have said all along, to the industry and to FDA with our Citizen Petition asking for labeling clarity, it’s essential to be fair to consumers and not imply they are getting something they are not when they buy a product. It’s not only ethical, it protects the industry from losing their trust.”

Nammex is critical of brands that sell mycelium products but use images of fruiting bodies on their marketing. This is because consumers more readily recognize fruiting bodies than mycelium. For Nammex, this is false advertising, and brands should make efforts to be more transparent and accurate in how they market fungi ingredients.

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