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The mushroom-picking season has come early this year: take care to avoid the risk of poisoning

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News of 31/08/2021

The weather conditions in July and August this year have favoured early foraging for wild mushrooms. Many cases of poisoning due to consumption have already been observed. These can be serious (severe digestive disorders, kidney complications or liver damage that may require a transplant) and even fatal. Whether you are a connoisseur or an occasional picker, you should remain vigilant and comply with good practices to ensure safe consumption.

Three poisoning fatalities already in 2021          

Consumers face multiple poisoning risks from confusion of edible species with toxic species, or consumption of edible mushrooms that are in poor condition or undercooked. Between 1 July and 29 August 2021, 330 cases of poisoning had already been reported to French poison control centres, including three that were serious and life-threatening. Moreover, three deaths have also been recorded so far this year.

Review of the previous season     

ANSES conducts seasonal monitoring of poisonings due to wild mushrooms using data from the French poison control centres.

A review of the previous season showed that between 1 July and 31 December 2020, more than 1,300 poisonings were reported to poison control centres, particularly in October (56% of cases), when the weather conditions combining rainfall, humidity and cool temperatures favoured mushroom growth and picking. In most cases, people were poisoned by mushrooms they had picked themselves, but 4.5% of poisonings were caused by mushrooms purchased at a market or from a shop. While most occurred during a meal, 3% of cases involved a child or an adult with a cognitive disorder such as Alzheimer's disease or an intellectual disability, ingesting a piece of inedible mushroom found in a garden or school playground. In a few cases, confusion with an edible species was due to the use of a fungi recognition app on a smartphone.

The symptoms observed were mainly digestive: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. While most of these poisonings were minor, there were 29 cases with a life-threatening prognosis and five deaths.

Our recommendations to avoid accidents

In response to a situation that unfortunately reoccurs every year, ANSES, the French poison control centres and the French Directorate General for Health offer the following recommendations: 

  • Only pick mushrooms that you know very well: some highly poisonous fungi closely resemble edible species. Poisonous fungi can also 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. You can seek help from a pharmacist or local mycology association or society. 
  • 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.
  • Carefully separate the foraged mushrooms according to species, to avoid mixing pieces of poisonous fungi with edible mushrooms. 
  • Place the mushrooms in a box, crate or basket and never in a plastic bag, which accelerates their decomposition. 
  • Store your mushrooms in the refrigerator (maximum 4°C), avoiding contact with other foods, and eat them within two days of picking. 
  • Consume mushrooms in reasonable quantities after cooking them thoroughly (pan fry for 20 to 30 minutes or boil in water for 15 minutes), and never eat wild mushrooms raw. 
  • Never feed the mushrooms you have picked to young children. 
  • Teach children to never put mushrooms found in the garden or school playground in their mouths.
  • Do not consume mushrooms identified solely by a fungi recognition app on a smartphone, due to the high risk of error.
  • Do not eat mushrooms sold by street vendors. 

The time to onset of symptoms can vary. They will usually occur within a few hours of consumption, but may take longer to appear and can even exceed 12 hours. The patient's condition can then worsen rapidly. 

If symptoms do occur, it is useful to keep a record of the times of the last meals and of the onset of the first symptoms, and to keep any leftover wild mushrooms for identification.  

Take photos of your mushrooms before cooking, making sure to separate them according to species. In the event of poisoning, these photos will help the toxicologist at the poison control centre decide on suitable treatment.

In the event of a life-threatening condition (loss of consciousness, respiratory distress, etc.), dial 15 (France), 112 (Europe), or 114 (a text service for the deaf and hard of hearing).

If symptoms (diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, trembling, dizziness, vision problems, etc.) develop after eating mushrooms, call a poison control centre immediately and be sure to mention the mushroom consumption event.
 

Poison control centre numbers for France:

ANGERS              02 41 48 21 21                                                MARSEILLE          04 91 75 25 25
BORDEAUX         05 56 96 40 80                                                NANCY                 03 83 22 50 50
LILLE                 08 00 59 59 59                                                PARIS                   01 40 05 48 48
LYON                 04 72 11 69 11                                                TOULOUSE           05 61 77 74 47