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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Beware of confusion between edible and toxic plants

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News of 17/08/2020

Some toxic plants resemble edible plants and may be confused with them, not only in the wild but also in the vegetable garden. Picking plants for consumption is therefore not without risk, and cases of serious or even fatal poisoning are regularly reported. Below are a few tips from the Agency and the Poison Control Centres on how to avoid accidents.

Frequent poisoning due to confusion between edible and toxic plants

Ornamental gourd confused with edible squash, water dropwort confused with wild carrot, jimsonweed leaves confused with New Zealand spinach leaves or autumn crocus confused with wild garlic...These are just some examples of the many cases of toxic plants being mistaken for edible ones.

The consumption of certain toxic plants can cause serious or fatal poisoning, even at low doses. Whether you pick plants from the wild or from your garden vegetable patch, you therefore need to be extremely vigilant and follow a few tips in order to avoid accidents.

 

The Agency's recommendations

If you are picking plants from the wild:

  • Do not eat a plant you have picked if you have any doubts about its identity;
  • Stop eating the plant immediately if it has an unusual or unpleasant taste;
  • Do not pick plants by the armful: avoid gathering different types of plant together as you could mix toxic species with edible ones;
  • Take photographs of the plants you pick for easier identification in the event of poisoning.

 

If you are picking plants from your vegetable patch:

  • Do not eat a plant you have harvested if you have any doubts about its identity;
  • Do not make assumptions: ensure you know what the plant that is going to grow looks like. Make use of any photos of the plant available on the sachet of purchased seeds, or from other sources such as books or websites;
  • Remain vigilant: just because a seedling emerges in a place where seeds were sown, this does not mean that it comes from that batch of seeds;
  • Be aware of the risk of confusion when harvesting plants that have been transplanted from one year to the next;
  • Take photographs of the plants you pick for easier identification in the event of poisoning.

If you have any doubts after ingestion or if you experience any digestive or other symptoms within hours of eating plants picked from a garden vegetable patch or from the wild, contact a poison control centre immediately.

French poison control centres provide free,

24-hour emergency medical teleconsultations.

For any poisoning situation, seek advice and guidance from a poison control centre before consulting a doctor or going to the hospital emergency department.

Dial 15 (in France) in the event of a life-threatening condition
(coma, respiratory distress, etc.)

www.centres-antipoison.net

24-hour emergency numbers for the poison control centres:

ANGERS              +33 (0)2 41 48 21 21      MARSEILLE         +33 (0)4 91 75 25 25

BORDEAUX        +33 (0)5 56 96 40 80       NANCY               +33 (0)3 83 22 50 50

LILLE                   +33 (0)8 00 59 59 59       PARIS                  +33 (0)1 40 05 48 48

LYON                   +33 (0)4 72 11 69 11      TOULOUSE         +33 (0)5 61 77 74 47