Fungi competitors band together to oppose Nammex’s push for labeling changes

Four companies have come together to oppose a petition that asks FDA to alter the rules on mushroom labeling.

Hank Schultz, Senior Editor

June 22, 2023

4 Min Read

Several companies supplying fungi products have pushed back on a Citizen Petition to FDA about the labeling of such products. The companies claim what the petition seeks would obfuscate, rather than clarify the issue.

Four companies—Fungi Perfecti, M2 Ingredients, Gourmet Mushrooms and Monterey Mushrooms—collaborated on an open letter on the issue of mushroom labeling.

Their goal, as stated in the letter, is to “convey scientifically accurate information to the public, to FDA, and to other thought leaders in the field.”

Petition filed to clarify mushroom labeling

Mushroom supplier Nammex filed its petition last week. It asked FDA to require labels of fungi products to distinguish between “mushrooms,” the fruiting bodies of the organisms, or “mycelium,” the thread-like mass in which the digestion of the host biomass takes place and from which the fruiting bodies arise. The petition opposed the practice of using the word “mushrooms” to apply to all parts of the organism.

“Nammex believes this lack of clarity in the regulation has created confusion in the marketplace and opened the door for the deceptive marketing of dietary supplements containing ingredients from fungi,” the Citizen Petition stated.

“Thus, FDA should amend the cited dietary supplement labeling regulations to expressly mandate that the part of the fungus from which a fungal ingredient is derived must be listed on a dietary supplement,” the petition added.

Related:Nammex petition requests FDA clarify mushroom labeling

Competitors claim petition would induce further confusion

However, the open letter from the companies claims that what Nammex is asking for is not scientifically substantiated. Nor would it improve the situation for consumers and would, rather, make things less clear.

Nammex’s requested change “obfuscates and misrepresents the use of well-established mycological definitions that impact responsible consumer messaging about mushroom products,” the companies maintained in a statement that announced the publication of the open letter.

From the companies’ point of view, using the word “mushroom” in connection with various parts of the plant has a long history of use and is scientifically valid.

Paul Stamets, founder and chief science officer of Fungi Perfecti, manufacturer of the Host Defense line of fungi products, said: “We are concerned by the public confusion being created and spread by this Citizen Petition about widely accepted and settled terminology.”

“This is critical for clear and sound regulations. We advocate for truth and scientific accuracy in labeling. In our opinion, the proposals being advocated by Nammex in their Citizen Petition do neither,” he added.

The Nammex petition turned a spotlight on companies that include mycelium in their finished products, alleging that these products might have less bioactive compounds, among them the beta glucans, that give fungal species their bioactivity.

Many labeling practices open to debate

The open letter suggests that Nammex’s own label practices are open to debate.

When consumers see the word “extract” on the label, they may be led to believe that 100% of that came from the raw material, whether it be a mushroom fruiting body, the root of a botanical or what have you.

In reality many extracts must be sprayed onto some sort of carrier material, frequently the “marc,” or what is left over after the extract is made, and then dried. That carrier material is rarely, if ever, disclosed, the open letter stated.

“This means that 90-plus percent of the product weight is composed of dehydrated, inert marc and not identified on the label. Nammex’s sister brand Real Mushroom, which markets mushroom fruit body extract powders, does not publicly disclose whether their extracts are sprayed back upon the marc or are pure extracts absent the marc,” the open letter claimed.

Also, the open letter maintained that beta glucans are one of the active compounds in fungi, but there are many others.

“Furthermore, beta glucans are but one beneficial compound available within mushroom ingredients, and their presence alone does not indicate biological activity,” the letter added.

Nammex responded to a request for comment with a statement that is excerpted here in part:

"The small group of manufacturers argue that the word 'mushroom' describes the organism itself, whereas terms like 'mycelium' and 'fruit body”'refer to distinct parts of the mushroom organism, so use of 'mushroom mycelium' is accurate. They wrote that this is parallel to saying, 'plant roots', 'plant seeds/spores' and 'plant flowers.' But 'plant root' or 'plant seed/spore/flower' terminology would violate federal law and FDA regulations, creating a misbranding violation and subjecting the product to enforcement action. We don’t label an herb “plant root,” we identify it with the specific common plant name such as 'echinacea root.' Using 'mushroom mycelium' is exactly the same as using 'plant root.' We are simply asking that products be labeled similarly: 'Reishi mycelium' when that is indeed what they contain, or 'Reishi mushroom' when the contents are derived from the mushroom," the company said.

"'[M]ushroom mycelium' has no place in the labeling of products in commerce because it deceptively conveys to consumers that a product contains mushrooms when this may not be the case. This is a confusing and unsupportable argument. People know what a mushroom is, and it is not mycelium," the statement concluded.


About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

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