French authorities have renewed warnings about eating wild mushrooms after hundreds of poisoning cases in the past few months.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) reported that since the start of the mushroom-picking season in early autumn, poison control centers have recorded a sharp increase in cases, particularly in recent weeks.

Poisoning risks include confusion of an edible type with a toxic species, or consumption of edible mushrooms that are in poor condition, undercooked, or have been incorrectly stored. Most cases are due to foraged mushrooms but occasionally they are because of the purchase at a market or in a shop, or consumption in a restaurant.

Latest intoxication stats
Since July 2020, poison control centers have recorded 732 cases of intoxication, including five people with serious life-threatening illnesses.

Confusion between species sometimes happens through the use of fungi recognition apps on smartphones, which incorrectly identify the foraged mushrooms, according to ANSES.

In 2019, more than 2,000 cases were reported to poison control centers between July and December. While most poisonings were minor, there were 24 cases of high severity with life-threatening prognosis and three deaths. More than half of all cases occurred in October when weather conditions combining rainfall, humidity, and cooler temperatures favored wild mushroom growth and picking.

Symptoms are mainly digestive and include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The onset of illness varies and is usually within a few hours of consumption, but maybe longer and exceeds 12 hours. People should note the time of the last meal and onset of first symptoms, and keep any leftover wild mushrooms for identification.

This type of poisoning can have serious health consequences such as severe digestive disorders, kidney complications, or liver damage requiring a transplant leading to hospitalization or death.

A problem elsewhere
In October this year, the Ontario Poison Centre warned the public of the dangers of mushroom foraging after an increase in calls. The rise included cases where people had to be hospitalized after consuming wild mushrooms. In September, the center received 72 calls directly related to mushroom exposures, compared to 38 in September 2019.

In the same month, officials in the Italian city of Sassari detected three cases of wild mushroom poisoning. The first involved a child who ate edible porcini mushrooms. The second intoxication was caused by consumption in excessive quantities of mushrooms from the species Leucopaxillus lepistoides. The third case occurred after eating Amanita phalloides and the patient needed hospital treatment.

Authorities in Hong Kong investigated suspected poisoning related to the consumption of wild mushrooms in September. A five-year-old boy and 47-year-old woman developed nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea for about one hour after consuming mushrooms at home. One month earlier, a 54-year-old woman reported nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea one hour after having cooked mushrooms at home and required hospital treatment.

In May, a number of serious poisonings occurred in Victoria, Australia due to Death Cap and Yellow-staining mushrooms. The mushroom season in South Australia coincided with more people being at home and there was an increase in calls to the poisons information hotline from those seeking help after eating wild mushrooms. In total, 21 of 30 calls in 2020 involved young children, and five were referred to the hospital.

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