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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Poisonings due to mushroom consumption - be aware of the risk!

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News of 20/10/2016

Since the beginning of October, 87 cases of poisoning associated with the consumption of mushrooms, including three serious cases, have been reported to the poison control centres. In response to the increase in the number of cases, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Food & Safety (ANSES) and the Directorate General for Health (DGS) are issuing a warning to wild mushroom gatherers and reminding them of the good practices to be observed.

 

The weather conditions in recent weeks (a warm period followed by heavy rains) have promoted the growth of wild mushrooms and there has consequently been a sharp increase in the number of poisonings associated with their consumption. This type of poisoning can have serious health consequences (severe digestive disorders, kidney complications or liver damage that may require a transplant) and can even be fatal. In most cases, they result from confusion with other edible mushrooms.

Such cases are regularly observed year after year, and call for vigilance. ANSES and the DGS are therefore making the following recommendations to wild mushroom enthusiasts:

  • only pick mushrooms that you can clearly identify: some highly poisonous fungi closely resemble edible species;
  • if you have the slightest doubt about the condition or identification of any of the mushrooms you have picked, do not consume any until you have had them checked by a specialist (pharmacists or regional mycology associations and societies, for example);
  • only pick specimens in good condition and take the entire mushroom (stalk and cap), to facilitate identification;
  • carefully separate the harvested mushrooms according to species, to avoid mixing pieces of poisonous fungi with edible mushrooms;
  • wash your hands thoroughly after picking;
  • never offer the wild mushrooms you have picked to young children, pregnant women or fragile individuals if doubts persist about their edible nature and if they have not been identified by a specialist.

 

The following are also recommended:

  • avoid picking mushrooms near polluted sites (roadsides, industrial zones, landfills);
  • place the mushrooms separately in a box or crate for optimum storage, and never in a plastic bag, which accelerates their decomposition;
  • store the mushrooms separately in suitable conditions in the refrigerator, and consume within no more than two days of picking;
  • cook the mushrooms thoroughly before consumption and never eat them raw.

 

What to do in the event of symptoms of poisoning

The symptoms associated with consumption of wild mushrooms (diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, trembling, dizziness, vision problems, etc.) may appear up to 12 hours after consumption, and the condition of the patient may worsen quickly. It is useful to note the times of the last meals and of the onset of the first symptoms, and to keep any leftovers from the harvest for identification.


A valuable reflex is to take photos of your mushrooms before cooking! In the event of poisoning, the photo may help the pharmacist or doctor at the poison control centre decide on suitable treatment.


If one or more of these symptoms should appear, immediately call the poison control centre in your region or dial "15" (in France), and explain that you have eaten mushrooms.

 

Following the transfer of toxicovigilance coordination to ANSES in January 2016, the Agency is now responsible for the seasonal monitoring of mushroom poisoning events based on France's Poison Control Centre data.