Beware of poisoning when foraging for wild mushrooms!
Since the start of the mushroom-picking season, poison control centres have recorded a sharp increase in cases of poisoning associated with the consumption of wild mushrooms, particularly in the last two weeks. This type of poisoning can have serious health consequences leading to hospitalisation or even death. Healthcare systems are already under strain amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, so ANSES once again invites you to be extra vigilant while picking and comply with good practices to ensure safe consumption of mushrooms.
Mushroom poisoning: symptoms that are sometimes severe and can lead to hospitalisation or even death
Consumers face multiple poisoning risks such as confusion of an edible species with a toxic species, or consumption of edible mushrooms that are in poor condition or undercooked.
Since 1 July 2020, poison control centres (CAPs) have recorded 732 cases of poisoning, including five that were serious with life-threatening prognosis. In the last two weeks, the CAPs have noted a sharp acceleration in the number of poisonings.
Most cases are due to foraged mushrooms. More rarely, they may follow purchase at a market or in a shop, or consumption in a restaurant. Confusion between species is sometimes facilitated by the use of fungi recognition apps on smartphones, which incorrectly identify the foraged mushrooms.
The symptoms observed are mainly digestive: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. The time to onset of symptoms varies. It is usually within a few hours of consumption, but may be longer and exceed 12 hours. The patient's condition can then worsen rapidly.
ANSES's recommendations for safe consumption
- only pick mushrooms that you know very well: some highly poisonous fungi closely resemble edible species. Beware! Poisonous fungi can grow in the same place that you picked edible mushrooms the previous year;
- if you have the slightest doubt about the condition or identification of any of the mushrooms you have picked, do not consume them until you have had them checked by a specialist in the subject. You can seek advice from a pharmacist or local mycology associations and societies;
- only pick specimens in good condition and take the entire mushroom (stalk and cap), to facilitate identification;
- avoid picking mushrooms near potentially polluted sites such as roadsides, industrial zones and landfills;
- to avoid mixing pieces of poisonous fungi with edible mushrooms, place the mushroom species separately in a box, crate or basket and never in a plastic bag, which accelerates their decomposition;
- store the mushrooms in the refrigerator (max. 4°C) while avoiding contact with other foods, and eat them within two days of picking;
- consume in reasonable quantities after cooking them thoroughly, and never eat wild mushrooms raw;
- never feed the mushrooms you have picked to young children;
- do not eat mushrooms identified by a fungi recognition app on a smartphone, due to the high risk of error;
- do not consume mushrooms sold by non-professional street vendors.
In the event of a life-threatening condition (loss of consciousness, respiratory distress, etc.) dial 15 (in France) or 112.
If symptoms develop after eating mushrooms (diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, trembling, dizziness, vision problems, etc.), call a poison control centre immediately and mention this consumption.
If symptoms do occur, it is useful to note the times of the last meals and of the onset of the first symptoms, and to keep any leftover wild mushrooms for identification.
Poison control centre numbers:
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
A valuable reflex
Take photos of your mushrooms before cooking, making sure to separate them according to species! In the event of poisoning, the photos will help the toxicologist at the poison control centre decide on suitable treatment.