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dfunghi

Porcini, Truffles, etc Now Illegal in LA County

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UPDATE

March 4th has come and gone. Late Friday ( after 5 pm) I got a message from Terrance Powell that they need 2 more days, " you should recieve something by Tuesday depending on the US Mail" was his message. The tone was not one that lead me to think the letter was going to be anything either, clearing up how anyone can sell this product and Farmers Markets cant, or why it is a puplic safety issue only from FM. In my own research I know they have not taken any calls from LAMS ( los angeles mycological society) nor have they called them back. They also have not contacted any of the chefs at any of the restaurants we claimed are serving the same exact product as of last Weds. They do however continue to tell the press and any customers that call that there is no restriction on the sale of wild mushrooms and that the FM have been stopped for "other reasons". These reasons have not been disclosed to anyone I know. They keep comming back to the "Approved Source" issue and we keep asking what "approved source " does anyone else have? It goes round and round in circles.

I would like to add that if the LADHS tried to go into Wild Oats and stop them from selling wild mushrooms but continued to allow Pavillions or Whole Foods there would be a team of lawyers from Wild Oats in court the next day to challenge the restriction against only one business and not another. WE DON'T HAVE A TEAM OF LAWYERS! Therefore we make easy prey.

I have offered proof that we obtain our mushrooms directly from the source and that ALL WILD MUSHROOMS originate in the same place. The Forest! They are trying to claim that somehow because Whole Foods ( just an example) buys from a large mushroom company that they somehow have a different origin. They do not ask the mushroom company where they get them from. I have given them in writting a paper trail back to the source of my mushrooms. I then showed them how my source supplies the large mushroom company that supply the grocery stores. I also informed them of a man I know that drives down from No. Cal and sells direct to restaurants in LA and asked how is it he can and I cant? The inconsistancy of their policy just gets worse and worse. Lastly we have demanded / asked that they clarify what public safety is present with FM and not elsewhere and why they have not taken any further action if indeed there is a public safety( i.e. No public notice , warnings or enforcement by field offices).

I will post update ASAP

David


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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david--

please persist in this, even without a team of lawyers. it must be incredibly frustrating to you, and frightening as well, as your livelihood is being impacted. i wish you all the best, and will write letters, call politicians, or ??


"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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David:

Have you been back in touch with Carol Kim at ZY's office to tell her that DHS missed the deadline she gave them? What they have and haven't told you? The inconsistencies in their own practices? Etc? I know this is frustrating but, from experience in my day job, I have faith in Ms. Kim.

As for the rest of us, we can call our Supervisors here in LA County and also chime in that we were waiting for news as well and that DHS missed the deadline, etc, etc.


So long and thanks for all the fish.

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JF,

All parties including Carol Kim are aware of the delay. Appearantly the LADHS is trying to "solve" the" approved source" issue for Wild Mushrooms. I believe they will find, as have the groups before them, it is a very , very , complicated issue. I also believe at some point ( soon I hope) they will have to either stop all sales and service or allow FM to return to selling while they wrestle with the issue. Stopping all sales would probably help my cause since at that point there would be some very powerful parties involved including the grocery chains and famous chefs. I find it hard to believe that is the way the LADHS will go.

DAvid


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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Wow! I have read this thread with great interest and distress. It would appear that something is rotten in Southern California! There must be a major aspect of this story that is missing whether it be from the powers that be or from David. That statement is not meant to accuse you, David. It is simply a statement of logic. Somewhere there is information missing. It is either from them or from you. Why this? Why now? It makes absolutely zero sense unless htere is some other aspect to the story. Is it personal? Is there graft? Why do the big chains get to sell and not "the little guys"? It would certainly seem to help the chains bottom lines if they had the market cornered. Have there been any publicized adverse events from wild mushroom sales in California or elsewhere recently? what do the people involved have to gain from this? It certainly does stink.

David, are you a member of Slow Food? If you are, or even if not, you might wish to get them involved. Unfortunately, Whole Foods is I believe a fairly significant contributor to the organization. I don't know if that might make any difference.

Good luck.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Hi Doc,

I have shared all the info as I have had it. Why now ? My guess is this. The day it started, Feb 2nd, there was a normal market inspection by LADHS only this time he ( Verny) was training new inspectors on his shift. I believe there was some ego involved or some muscle flexing so to speak, to impress the trainees. We have been licensed by the AG dept in Cal since 1995 to sell what we grow ( shiitakes, maitake, portabello) at FM. The wild is a seperate issue and appearantly I was supposed to have a permit from the health dept for public sales of "non agriculure products". It was never asked for before nor were we told we needed it by anyone in the 10 years we were selling. This was the violation sited by Verny as why he could shut me down , on the spot. Literally taking truffles out of customers hands and not allowing them to purchase them. That I believe was muscle flexing in front of his four trainees. After this started and I was denied a permit to sell wilds I became the catalyst that they ( ladhs) must stop all sales if they are going to stop me. I pointed out that at the FM 2 days after they shut me down the same inspector allowed another mushroom guy to sell chanterelles. I was livid and went above the inspectors head to HQ to ask how is that possible? How can Verny recognize chanterelles as wild on Weds and not on Friday? Thats when the story started to change on a daily basis from LADHS. My belief is Verny never thought I would have made such a stink nor would I have a couple of hundred customers call the LADHS as well as the LA Board of Sup's. Nor did they think I would force them to take further action based on the product itself not just me. There was no way I was going to be the only one shut down, so I sort of forced them to take action. Needless to say they are in no hurry to involve the large supermarket chains or the restaurants. I suppose by closing down my wild sales and my forcing wider action answers the wider "why now" question. There is no way I'm going away quietly. Not after 10 years of business.

As to they why can some and not others sell it is simple. The LADHS is lacking any clear understanding of the wild mushroom industry and the County as well as the State lack any clear regulations on it. So they make it up as they go. They are trying to educate themselves about the industry but are fairly in the dark. They believe some "wild mushrooms" come from farms and others don't. They did not know truffles where wild. Or porcini, Morels, Chanterelles. They believe there are wild shiitakes and farmed shiitakes. Shiitakes have not been "wild " in over 1000 years in asia and never in No. America. I sent them excellent ref guides written by Mycologists and hopefully they are learning. I think the more they learn the bigger the problem gets. Yesterday I spoke with LADHS and was told they are trying to figure a way to determin what an expert buyer / picker is and how that will qualify for legal sales in LA County. I asked what they were going to do to enforce this expert qualification when the mushrooms are from another state or country? Would they inspect the huge mushroom companies from Vancouver BC or Seattle or Portland or perhaps they intended to eliminate interstate sales which would be a violation of federal laws. What about French or Italian Truffles? Who will enforce their expert requirements there? They are trying to figure out what to do. I firmly believe they do not understand the full scope of what they are trying to do.

I do not believe the chains are behind this in anyway since wild mushrooms are a very small part of their biz. In fact I believe they will stop selling at the first sign of trouble from LADHS. If that trouble ever comes.

In answer to Slow Food I was recently interviewed for the Market Segement of Good Food here in LA you can listen here http://tinyurl.com/6yt7w . Good Food's host Evan Klienman is the So Cal Slow Food cheif. In addition there is a FM trade group called Southland Farmers MArket Assoc. ( SFMA). The president has tried to make contact at the very top of LADHS ( T. Garthwait) and haved recieved no response to the letter sent Feb 17th. The letter basically said that LADHS would have to come up with an "approved source" or remove from entire county. Whatever standard is set it must be applied equally to all. SFMA has 700 members covering 22 FM and has a multi million dollar war chest.

Lastly we have tried to enlist he help of some prominenet chefs with no luck. They say it is not affecting them and it is my problem. Of course when May rolls around and I have the finest, rock hard, fresh porcini flown in direct from the field, I'm sure some of these same chefs will call me to save them 20 or 30 lbs every week as they have for the last 10 years. We'll see how that goes.

David


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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There is no way I'm going away quietly. Not after 10 years of business.

that's the spirit!

I was recently interviewed for the Market Segement of Good Food here in LA

also excellent. so glad to hear that you are not giving up, david. this is an important issue, and while it must be a tremendous PITA for you, i believe that your perserverence will be rewarded.


"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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Wow! I have read this thread with great interest and distress. It would appear that something is rotten in Southern California! There must be a major aspect of this story that is missing whether it be from the powers that be or from David. That statement is not meant to accuse you, David. It is simply a statement of logic. Somewhere there is information missing. It is either from them or from you. Why this? Why now? It makes absolutely zero sense unless htere is some other aspect to the story. Is it personal? Is there graft? Why do the big chains get to sell and not "the little guys"? It would certainly seem to help the chains bottom lines if they had the market cornered. Have there been any publicized adverse events from wild mushroom sales in California or elsewhere recently? what do the people involved have to gain from this? It certainly does stink.

David, are you a member of Slow Food? If you are, or even if not, you might wish to get them involved. Unfortunately, Whole Foods is I believe a fairly significant contributor to the organization. I don't know if that might make any difference.

Good luck.

When I spoke to this person, I could not believe how ignorant he was about wild mushrooms. I suggested he contact U.C. Davis which has a huge amount of information about mycology but he simply wasn't interested.

His entire premise seemed to be that if someone got a toxic mushroom he would lose his job because the county would be sued.

When I pointed out that EVERY SINGLE INCIDENCE of mushroom poisoning in California in the past 20 years has been from individuals picking their own, he wasn't interested in hearing it. He had apparently made up his mind, from little or no information and was proceeding on that premise.

Ignorance in an individual who has this kind of power is unpardonable. He should be disciplined simply because he has failed to get the information which would settle this. Taking a stand on an untenable base is ridiculous as well as dangerous.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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UPDATE

I recieved a fax just now from LADHS. It boils down to this. Wild mushrooms must be purchased from an approved source. Currently there is none, so in the absence of any approved source for wild mushrooms they must be purchesed from any licensed produce company. With no regard for where they get them from other than they get them from a licensed produce company. It makes my head spin! Bottom line is I can return to selling my mushrooms as long as I dont get them directly from the pickers but instead BUY them from some produce company. Even though the produce company buys them from a mushroom company that buys them from pickers. I CAN NOT BELIEVE I HAD TO WAIT 5 F***ING WEKS FOR THIS. It does not address anything about wild mushrooms other than protecting the produce companies profits and eliminating my once excellent sources for the freshest , best , mushrooms. It is completly idiotic and shows how cluless the LADHS is about wild mushrooms and there complete unwillingness to learn. Just pass the buck . Just so they can say "well it was from a usda licensed produce company" "blame them" They claim to be writting new rules that all will have to follow . Dont hold your breath.

I am so friggin angry right now!!!! I had to lose 5 weeks of business so they could just back away from the whole thing in the end. These are the people suppose to be watching out for our public safety. HA! They even faxed me "guidlines" from FDA that they got orig from me. They said it in a way like it was something they came up with.

>>>> I will add one thing here. I WILL NEVER OPEN ANOTHER FOOD BUSINESS IN LA!!! I have two new business ideas in the works and they will both be located out of LA and maybe out of California. In the 10 plus years I have had a business and the 20 plus years in the food industry this is the most idiotic episode to date.

David.


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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How hard is it for you to become the licensed produce produce company. That shouldnt be so tough. A clean room with a walk-in, a three compartment sink, a scale and some nice mushrooms being delivered to 'you', just like before - but with a new license to "Tax yo'A*S on"

Don't be so hard on LA - you are scaring me - I hope it isnt as bad for opening a retail food establishment!

Ore

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UPDATE

LATimes has a great story about the whole issue in Weds. Food Section.

http://tinyurl.com/3pr3y

It sums it up perfectly. Including what an ego maniacal bunch are at the LADHS.

David

I would like to add one thing.Pickers like everyone else in a cash business "fib". I have never seen $2 a pound trompettes. $5 -$8 to the pickers more likely.


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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I still think someone should bring this to the attention of the governer. He comes from a place where people turn out by the hundreds to pick wild mushrooms in season and they are on the menu at every restaurant.

I am sure he would see how ridiculous this is and he has stuck his fingers into a lot of pies, why not this one......


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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That is a really well written article, and the author does indeed take a few well-aimed and richly deserved jabs at the Health Dept.

I know a woman in Washington State who designs and supplies the software that seafood suppliers use to generate the identification tags that are sent with their products. The LADHS is certainly aware of this software as it is used by nearly all west coast seafood suppliers. (If you want to know where your store's clams came from and how fresh they are, you can ask to see the tags. You may have to figure out some of the abbreviations yourself, however.) If Powell really cares about public safety, why didn't he get her contact information, find out if she can adapt the software for mushrooms, and make that information available to mushroom purveyors before his little edict, which has only been partially enforced? In the meantime, he is taking livelihoods away from a few people, and taking mushrooms away from an unharmed public, while allowing others in his fiefdom to operate until he "gets around" to them.

As for Los Angeles County, Powell doesn't care what has happened elsewhere; as far as he is concerned, his new interim rules should stand as law until the state decides whether to act.

And what does the state say? "We don't know what the county is doing," says Robert Miller, spokesman for the California Department of Health Services. To date, Powell has not notified the state of his new regulations.

Smacks of corruption to me. Although I can't imagine there'd be that much money in mushrooms. :rolleyes:


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Mary Baker

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Sell them out of your trunk like the first largest cash crop. :laugh::laugh::laugh:


Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

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The article in the LA Times says, or at least implies if I remember correctly, that wild mushrooms are still available for sale at restaurants and grocers. Is this true?

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Very interesting article. While on the surface Powell's concerns seem genuine and worthwhile, in reality they smack of megalomania. Here is one person taking it upon himself to fix something that isn't broken in a way that is much more likely to harm more people than the mushrooms he is worried about. Wow. The underlying ideas aren't necessarily bad, but it is certainly the wrong way to go about it.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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