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Food Safety Focus (158th Issue, September 2019) – Food Incident Highlight

Black Fungus Soaked Improperly May Produce Toxic Bongkrekic Acid

There were reports about severe food poisoning cases related to bongkrekic acid in Mainland China and Indonesia. Incriminated food items included black fungus and some fermented coconut or corn products.  Both raw materials and products of these food items can be contaminated by bongkrekic acid during improper preparation and storage.

Bongkrekic acid is produced by the bacterium, Burkholderia cocovenenans, which is ubiquitous in the soil and plants. It grows best at 37°C and can optimally produce bongkrekic acid at about 26°C. Bongkrekic acid is heat-stable and cannot be removed by washing. Patients suffering from bongkrekic acid poisoning may show symptoms including abdominal pain and vomiting. For severe cases, it might cause deranged liver function and even death.

To prevent bongkrekic acid poisoning, black fungus should be kept in the refrigerator if overnight soaking is needed. All utensils and surfaces which will come into contact with food should be cleaned thoroughly before food preparation.