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The Associated Press

MISSOULA (AP) — A new state policy will allow restaurant customers to enjoy dishes featuring morel mushrooms this summer.

State law prohibited restaurants from serving wild mushrooms until the Montana Food and Drug Program created their policy for the fungus.

“We’ve been working hard all spring at changing that, to make it legal for restaurants to sell wild mushrooms,” said Stan Strom, state program director. His agency worked with Larry Evans, a Missoula mushroom expert and restaurant owner, and the Missoula City-County Health Department to develop a new policy governing wild mushroom sales by restaurants.

The need for the new regulations was driven by consumer demand, said Mary Lou Gilman, an environmental health specialist for the city. In fact, several Missoula restaurants have been selling dishes featuring wild mushrooms despite the law prohibiting the practice.

That law also said restaurants must procure their food from an approved source, Gilman said. But there was no approved source for wild mushrooms.

Several weeks ago the city health department decided that Evans — a professional mycologist and authority on mushrooms — was qualified to approve mushrooms sold at his restaurant. The department said until a state policy is in place, other restaurants in Missoula could sell wild mushrooms if they were approved by Evans.

The state’s new wild mushroom policy basically adopts the local Health Department decision, officials said.

Strom said there are many qualified experts among commercial pickers, sellers and dealers. If a store or restaurant relies on that person to identify the mushrooms, and if the morels are clean, fresh, uncontaminated and prepared properly, there shouldn’t be any problems, he said.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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