Foraged wild mushrooms poison hundreds of people in France

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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.

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.

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