Picking wild mushrooms may involve risks. Every year, around a thousand cases of poisoning caused by mushrooms occur in France.
These poisoning cases can result from a number of different factors, such as confusion of an edible species with a toxic species, consumption of edible mushrooms that are in poor condition, undercooked, improperly stored, etc., hence the importance of vigilance, both for connoisseurs and occasional pickers.
This type of poisoning can have serious health consequences leading to hospitalisation: severe digestive disorders, kidney complications or liver damage requiring a transplant. Some cases can be fatal.
ANSES offers some advice on how to limit the risks of poisoning:
use a wicker basket, crate or cardboard box to collect your mushrooms. Above all, never use plastic bags, as they accelerate decomposition. Your container should be large enough to separate the different species, to avoid mixing pieces of poisonous fungi with edible mushrooms;
choose a foraging site away from polluted areas (roadsides, industrial areas, landfills, pastures, etc.) because fungi absorb any pollutants to which they are exposed;
find out who can help you identify your harvest if in doubt: certain pharmacists or mycology associations in your area.
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 pharmacist or local mycology association;
Only pick specimens in good condition and take the entire mushroom (stalk and cap), to facilitate identification;
Avoid collecting young specimens that have not finished growing, which may foster confusion, or old specimens that risk being damaged or infested with worms or insects.
wash your hands thoroughly;
take a photo of your mushrooms before cooking: in the event of poisoning, it may help the health professionals decide on suitable treatment;
store the mushrooms separately in suitable conditions in the refrigerator, and consume within two days of picking;
never eat wild mushrooms raw. Cook each species separately for a sufficient length of time: 20 to 30 minutes in a frying pan or 15 minutes in boiling water, discarding the cooking water. This destroys parasites and bacteria, and makes some species edible (shiitake, morels, some boletus);
consume mushrooms in reasonable quantities, i.e. 150 to 200 grams per adult per week;
never feed the wild mushrooms you have picked to young children. Senior citizens (high risk of dehydration and death in the event of poisoning) and pregnant women (some bacteria or parasites such as toxoplasmosis, which pose a risk to the foetus, are present in soil and could infect them) should also avoid their consumption;
do not consume 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 (diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, trembling, dizziness, vision problems, etc.) develop after eating mushrooms, call a poison control centre immediately and mention this consumption.
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
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.
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.
Did you know?
Some mushrooms are toxic when consumed with alcohol.
ANSES conducts seasonal monitoring of poisonings due to wild mushrooms using data from the poison control centres.