Foul ferns

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"Just as undercooked meat or fowl can make a meal sickening, so, too, raw or lightly cooked ostrich fern may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Though harvested commercially for years in the northeastern United States and in western Canada as a seasonal delicacy, _Matteucia struthiopteris_ seems to be the common element in several outbreaks of food poisoning this past May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

"At one time time, native Americans in eastern North America considered this fern a spring vegetable, one adopted by Canadian settlers in the 1700s, the CDC notes.

"Nevertheless, in New York, one restaurant received complaints from 40 people who ate fiddleheads sauteed for 2 minutes, while no one who ate similarly harvested ferns cooked 10 minutes at another eatery experienced symptoms. Likewise three outbreaks occurred in western Canada, two at restaurants that also cooked the ferns just briefly." "Health department officials tested uncooked ferns for bacterial and pesticide contamination but found neither. Nor did they track any other possible causes, the CDC reports in the Step 23 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. They conclude that the ferns may contain a toxin that adequate cooking--steaming for 10 minutes or boiling for 15 minutes-- destroys."

From an article in the October 8, 1994 (vol. 146, no. 15) _Science News_. From: bmailman@... in Formatted by Cathy Harned. Submitted By CATHY HARNED On 10-17-94

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