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460 ill from toxic fungi in 2014

Cases of mushroom poisonings are up this year because of favourable growing conditions

10 November 2014

MORE than 460 people this year have been poisoned from eating wild mushrooms so far this season, up from 265 cases last year.

The increased number of poisonings between June 30 and September 21 are linked to this season’s favourable growing conditions. Mushrooms flourish with rainfall, humidity and warm temperatures, and this year there was more summer rain and warmer temperatures in September. Fungi take just 24 hours to grow after rainfall.

Health watchdog Institut de Veille Sanitaire (InVS) runs a survey every year from July to December, which is when 90% of poisoning cases occur.

During the same period, 188 people attended urgences with mushroom poisoning, compared to 103 in 2013. Most were in Midi-Pyrénées (13,6%), followed by Pays de la Loire (13,1%) and Rhône-Alpes (13,1%) although all regions were included.

Medical experts recommend taking any foraged fungi to a pharmacist to be approved, as digesting toxic champignons can lead to nausea, kidney failure and even death. Pharmacists are trained to distinguish toxic and edible mushrooms as part of their studies.

Anyone showing symptoms including diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, shaking, vertigo or vision problems, which usually start 12 hours after eating wild mushrooms, should call an anti-poison centre or call Centre 15 as their condition could deteriorate rapidly. They should note the time of eating, first symptoms and keep any remnants of the mushrooms.

InVS and government health body DGS are advising mushroom-pickers to take the following precautions:

• Do not pick mushrooms that you do not perfectly recognise, as many poisonous mushrooms look like edible ones.

• If you are in any doubt about the identification of one of your mushrooms, do not eat it before having it checked by an expert including a pharmacist or a mycology specialist.

• Only pick specimens that are in perfect condition and pick the entire mushroom so it can be correctly identified.

• Avoid polluted sites – including roadsides, industrial areas and rubbish dumps - as mushrooms absorb and concentrate pollutants.

• Keep mushrooms separately in a crate or cardboard box, but never in a plastic bag which accelerates rotting. Leave them in the fridge and eat them within two days of picking, always cooking them first.

• Separate mushrooms by species as a poisonous mushroom can contaminate others.

• Wash your hands carefully after picking.

Mushrooms belong to the owner of the land, and there are restrictions on where, when, which and how many mushrooms can be picked, so it is wise to contact your local mairie or relevant information before going foraging.

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