The Food Safety Information Council has reminded people in Australia about the risks of getting sick from eating certain types of wild mushrooms.

The charity said that mushrooms are growing around the country after wet weather. A similar warning was issued in previous years.

Cathy Moir, Food Safety Information Council chair, said that foraging for food is becoming popular but gathering mushrooms outdoors can be dangerous.

“The poison in one death cap mushroom, if eaten, is enough to kill a healthy adult. In April 2022, a young child was hospitalized in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) after consuming a death cap mushroom. While in 2012, two people died after eating the deadly mushrooms at a New Year’s Eve dinner party in Canberra, and in 2014 four people also in the ACT were seriously poisoned,” she said.

“Deathcap mushrooms can appear at any time of year but are more common a week or two after good rains. They have been found in the Canberra region, in and around Melbourne, in Tasmania, and in Adelaide. They are not native to Australia and are often found near oak trees growing in warm wet weather. Similar native marbled death cap mushrooms have been found in Western Australia, although they may not be as toxic.

“Deathcap mushrooms are difficult to distinguish from some other wild mushrooms so we recommend you play it safe and only eat mushrooms that you have purchased from a supermarket, greengrocer, or another reputable source. People born overseas, especially in Asian countries, should be aware that these deadly mushrooms can look like edible mushrooms they may have gathered in their home countries.”

Children often affected
Toxins in death cap mushrooms are not destroyed by peeling, cooking, or drying. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps and usually appear 10 to 16 hours after eating. They may ease for 2 to 3 days before a terminal phase of 3 to 4 days. Without early medical intervention, people may go into a coma and die after weeks of liver and kidney failure.

Moir said while the death cap variety is linked to the most deaths, other mushroom types can cause illness.

“There are other wild mushrooms in Australia that have caused fatalities or can make you seriously ill with abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. These include the Cortinarius (webcap) and Galerina species, the ghost mushroom (commonly mistaken for oyster mushrooms), and the yellow stainer which resembles a field mushroom and is the most commonly ingested poisonous mushroom in Victoria and New South Wales,” she said.

“Many accidental exposures to poisonous mushrooms are in children under 5 years old, remember that small children have a natural inclination to put things in their mouths so keep an eye on them when outdoors. If you suspect you or your child may have eaten a death cap mushroom don’t wait for symptoms to occur but go to a hospital emergency department taking the mushroom with you if you can.”

It is not just Australia where wild mushrooms prompt concern. In 2022, almost 500 mushroom poisoning outbreaks were recorded in China with 28 associated deaths.

In September 2022 in France, at least 60 cases linked to wild mushrooms were reported.

Data from Tox Info Suisse, Switzerland’s poison information center, showed there was an increase in calls related to poisoning by plants and food and drink in 2022 while poisoning or suspected mushroom poisoning reports rose by 25 percent from 2021.

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