France has recorded more than 60 illnesses linked to wild mushrooms since the beginning of September.

Recent weather conditions have favored the growth of wild mushrooms and more than 60 intoxications have been reported to poison control centers since early September. Only a few cases occurred in July and August likely because of the very hot weather and drought, according to researchers.

Poisonings have a variety of causes: some people mistook a toxic species for an edible one, sometimes it is because of a smartphone app for wild mushroom identification providing incorrect information about the mushrooms picked, or consumption of edible mushrooms that are in poor condition or have been undercooked.

A yearly problem
Between July and December 2021, there were 1,269 cases reported to poison control centers in France. The majority of the mushrooms responsible had been picked in the wild but some cases involved mushrooms purchased commercially.

Symptoms were mainly digestive with abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. There were 41 severe cases including four deaths. Fifteen young children were poisoned and one of them needed a liver transplant. French authorities said picked mushrooms should not be given to young children.   

Between July and December 2020, there were 1,300 poisonings reported. Overall, 29 life-threatening cases were identified and five people died.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), poison control centers, and the Directorate General for Health (DGS) advised people to only pick mushrooms they know very well as some poisonous fungi closely resemble edible species. If there is the slightest doubt about the identification of any picked mushrooms, the agencies said they should not be consumed until they are checked by a specialist.

People should note the time of the last meal and onset of first symptoms, and keep any leftover wild mushrooms for identification. Officials advise taking a picture of the picked mushrooms before eating to help poison control center experts decide on the correct treatment if illness occurs.

Other countries impacted
Data from Tox Info Suisse, the Swiss poisons information center, revealed 529 mushroom poisoning cases in Switzerland in 2021.

The Belgian Poison Center (Centre Antipoisons) received almost 350 calls about potential mushroom poisonings in Belgium and Luxembourg in 2021.

In Germany, an average of 10 cases of mushroom poisoning per year are reported to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) by doctors, and poison centers in the federal states answer more than 3,000 related inquiries annually. 

Popular domestic edible types include the field mushroom (Agaricus campestris) and edible Russula species. Often collectors confuse edible mushrooms with the highly toxic death cap (Amanita phalloides). Toxins contained in death cap cause liver failure and even eating small amounts can be fatal. 

About five percent of all mushroom poisonings are because of consumption of the death cap mushroom, which grows from July to October, mainly in forests, but also in parks. The BfR estimates that it causes at least 80 percent of all fatal mushroom poisonings in Germany.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)