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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Autumn is here, and with it comes mushroom foraging: our recommendations to avoid poisoning incidents

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News of 02/10/2015

Autumn is a time for walks in the woods with a basket for gathering mushrooms.  Every year, approximately one thousand cases of poisoning occur in France due to the consumption of wild mushrooms. Here are some recommendations for reaping the pleasures of mushroom foraging without the risks.

 

Autumn is often synonymous with walks in nature, hunting for boletus, chanterelles and porcini mushrooms. But in order to enjoy what you pick without getting ill, it is important to learn how to recognise the different species and to follow a few recommendations.
 
Between 29 June and 30 August 2015, the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS) had already identified 212 cases of food poisoning due to the consumption of wild mushrooms. Because of this, the Agency is issuing a reminder to mushroom pickers to:
 

  • never pick a mushroom if you have the slightest doubt regarding its freshness or are not completely sure of the species. Certain highly toxic poisonous mushrooms closely resemble edible species;
  • only pick mushrooms which are fresh and pick the entire mushroom (cap and stem) to facilitate identification;
  • avoid picking mushrooms on roadsides, industrial grounds, dumping grounds, etc. since mushrooms can absorb large amounts of pollutants;
  • place the mushrooms separately in a basket, crate or box, never in a plastic bag which can promote rotting;
  • separate the mushrooms you have picked by species, since a single poisonous mushroom can contaminate other mushrooms,
  • wash your hands thoroughly after picking or handling the mushrooms;
  • do not eat your harvest until you have had it checked by a mushroom specialist: contact a pharmacist or a mycological association or society.
  • store your mushrooms correctly in the refrigerator and eat them within no more than two days of their being picked;
  • never eat wild mushrooms raw, and avoid eating them in large quantities. It is preferable to eat small quantities spaced out over time, and to cook them thoroughly.
In general, when in doubt - throw it out!

 

What to do if poisoning occurs?

The impact on health of mushroom poisoning can be serious, and may include severe digestive disorders, kidney problems, liver damage which may require a transplant, and death.
 
Should one or more symptoms appear after eating mushrooms picked in the wild (trembling, dizziness, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, etc.), immediately call a poison control centre or the emergency medical services or hotline in your area (dial 15 in France).

Symptoms most often appear within 12 hours of consumption, but in certain cases poisoning can occur later.

It is important to take notice of the time or times of your most recent mushroom meal(s), the time that the initial signs began to appear and to keep any leftover mushrooms for identification purposes.