By Kerry Staight May 28, 2010 AUSTRALIA
Let there be light... Mushrooms get a dose of UV rays. (Landline)
Mushrooms which have been exposed to pulses of intense ultraviolet light to boost Vitamin D levels will soon be on Australian supermarket shelves.
After two years of trials, Greg Seymour from the Australian Mushroom Growers' Association says the industry is preparing to adopt UV light technology.
"Mushrooms have been grown in the dark in modern times simply because they don't need the sun to actually grow," he said .
"What we didn't realise from some recent research is that they need the sun to make Vitamin D, just like you and me.
"Vitamin D insufficiency is a big thing in Australia. Fifty per cent of the population for 50 per cent of the year don't have enough Vitamin D."
Horticultural scientist Tony Biggs, who is working for the industry, recommends mushroom farmers add the American technology to their packing lines.
"They will be exposed we think to three pulses of one third of a second each, so a total of one second of pulsed light, and that will bring a level of Vitamin D in the mushrooms that's at least equivalent to 100 per cent of the daily requirement."
He says the light does not pose any health risks and will not cause the mushrooms to brown.
The technique already has the support of Doug Schirripa, who owns Adelaide Mushrooms, the second biggest farm in the country.
"We're certainly looking at bringing that in probably around July or August... when the research is finished," he said.
Another interested South Australian farmer is Patrick Newenham, who owns the much smaller Fresh Fields Mushrooms near Victor Harbour.
But with the technology costing between $30,000 and $40,000, he says he will not be able to afford vitamin supplementation at the speed of light.
"We may just have to say pass that one by for the moment and continue producing a good product," he said.
Tony Biggs says there will be cheaper options.
"For smaller growers we will be using a system where they use less intense ultraviolet light but for a longer period of time to achieve the same result," he said.
Vitamin D rich mushrooms are already commercially available in the United States but Greg Seymour says the jury is still out on whether they are a success.
"It hasn't sold enormous amounts yet, but the market is maturing very, very quickly there as health authorities are starting to warn people that they need to get their Vitamin D levels up, and I suspect a similar thing will happen here in Australia," he said.