According to recently published figures, mushroom poisoning remains a significant problem in China.

In 2023, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated 505 reports of mushroom poisoning, resulting in 1,303 patients and 16 deaths.

Incidents increased compared to 2022, but the number of patients was lower, according to the study published in the China CDC Weekly journal.

Mushroom poisoning in China is a significant food safety concern. Following an incident, CDC staff and hospital professionals collect mushroom specimens and photos, which are then sent to mycologists for identification. In parallel, toxin detection is performed on mushrooms and biological samples from patients, such as blood and urine.

97 poisonous mushroom species, including 12 newly recorded ones, were identified, leading to six distinct clinical manifestations. This brings the cumulative number of species involved in poisoning incidents in China to 220.

Newly discovered dangers
The number of patients per incident ranged from 1 to 15, with an average of 2—only six involved more than ten patients. Among the cases, 23 patients from 11 incidents consumed poisonous mushrooms purchased from markets, while 23 patients from nine incidents were poisoned after eating dried mushrooms. Also, 217 patients and five deaths resulted from 70 incidents where individuals consumed mixed wild mushrooms either self-collected or purchased from markets.

Between May and October, 461 incidents, 1,207 patients, and 15 deaths were reported, with a peak in June. May had the most deaths, with seven. Hunan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Hubei were the top affected regions.

A total of 97 species of poisonous mushrooms were identified in poisoning cases, leading to six clinical syndromes. Among these species, 12 were newly discovered as poisonous in China.

Collybia subtropica, Russula brevispora, Russula flavescens, and Russula pseudojaponica were newly described species in 2023. Coprinopsis strossmayeri, Gymnopus dysodes, and Gymnopus similis were three newly recorded poisonous varieties that caused gastroenteritis.

The most deadly mushroom was Amanita fuligineoides with seven deaths. Amanita subpallidorosea and Russula subnigricans both caused two deaths. Chlorophyllum molybdites was associated with the most poisonings, appearing in 150 incidents and affecting 303 patients.

While some species caused acute liver or renal failure, others led to gastroenteritis or psycho-neurological disorders.

Scientists said in many incidents, no mushroom specimens or photos were obtained, making it challenging to confirm the species of poisonous mushrooms and provide targeted treatment for patients.

Example incident
Another study published in the same journal reported on poisoning from a toxin in mushrooms. Wild mushrooms containing amanita toxins induce gastrointestinal symptoms initially, which are followed by potentially life-threatening acute liver damage.

In September 2023, five people in Xingtai City, Hebei Province, fell sick. All experienced different levels of liver damage, but none died.

Patients were members of the same family and had symptoms including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. They had a history of consuming self-forged wild mushrooms before the onset of symptoms. The group consisted of three males and two females, ages 34 to 45.

One patient, who had previous experience identifying and consuming wild mushrooms in Guizhou, said collected mushrooms were edible. Patients harvested the mushrooms themselves from a pine forest. They were later identified as Amanita subjunquillea. Health officials said the identification of toxic and non-toxic mushrooms should not solely rely on personal experience or appearance.

Local authorities initiated public education programs to raise awareness of the risks of consuming wild mushrooms and prohibited residents from foraging for and eating them.

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