Foraged wild mushrooms poison hundreds of people in France

hands chopping mushrooms outdoors on a plank
Photo: Marko Geber (Getty Images)

Mushroom picking season in France began in early autumn, and in the past few months, hundreds of people have been sickened by eating wild mushrooms. Foraging for mushrooms can be a risky endeavor, because there are so many toxic mushrooms that can be confused for the delicious edible ones. Since this past July, poison control centers have logged 732 cases of sickness, including five that reached life-threatening illnesses.

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According to Food Safety News, there’s been a large uptick in poisoning cases, specifically in the most recent weeks. More than half of the cases happened in October, because the combination of rain, humidity, and cooler temps created the ideal environment for mushrooms to grow.

You can be poisoned in multiple ways (yikes), the most obvious reason being a misidentification of a mushroom. But you can also get pretty darn sick from eating edible mushrooms that are in bad shape to begin with, cooked improperly, or ones that have been stored in non-ideal conditions. Most poisoning cases point to foraged mushrooms, but sometimes market purchases or restaurant meals can be involved.

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Some of the confusion stemmed from mushroom identification apps on smartphones. The technology can misidentify mushrooms occasionally. I’ve never been mushroom foraging, but this makes me nervous.

Most of the time, poisoning symptoms affect the digestive system, causing nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. They typically start within a few hours of eating them. If you suspect you ate something gnarly, keep track of what you most recently ate and keep any leftover mushrooms for follow-up identification later.

I’m sure mushroom picking is a lot of fun, but this is just a heads up to stay frosty out there, people.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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DISCUSSION

helpiamacabbage
PossibleCabbage

A lot of super poisonous mushrooms look a lot like tasty once (and some of the deadly kinds are tasty when you eat them, it’s just a bad idea). So if you’re not super-confident in your ability to identify mushrooms there’s probably a better hobby to find. Remember, fungus isn’t poisonous for tactical reasons (like many animals and some plants) it just happened to evolve to produce some compound that ravages your liver. Fungus does not care about you at all.

The other bit of advice I can give is if you suspect you have eaten a poisonous mushroom- drink water like your life depends on it, since it might.  Some of these things have toxic compounds that 80% go to your liver (where it does damage) and 20% goes to your kidneys (where you pee it out) so the more your kidneys are processing, the less damage you’re doing to your organs.