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Monday, May 17, 2021

Number of mushroom calls alarming, poison experts say

Consuming backyard mushrooms can lead to fatal organ damage, experts warn.

The reminder comes after NSW Poisons Information Centre recorded 155 calls regarding mushroom exposures.

Received between January and March, the group are attributing recent wet weather with the provision of optimal growing conditions for wild mushrooms.

People are once again being warned to avoid ingesting the potentially fatal fungi.

Of the 155 calls, 95 were accidental exposures, with more than 80% of accidental exposures occurring in children under five years old. 

Alarmingly, there were 33 calls regarding adults who ate wild mushrooms as food, and 20 calls regarding cases of mushrooms being ingested for recreational purposes.

Genevieve Adamo, Senior Specialist in Poisons Information at the NSW Poisons Information Centre, said the figures highlight a potentially dangerous issue in the community.

“The number of calls we have received relating to adults who are ingesting wild mushrooms, is concerning.

“Mushrooms found in the wild, even in people’s own backyard, are not safe to eat,” she said.

“For children, mushroom ingestion is often accidental, but for adults, we know that ingestion is usually intentional, either from experimental use or using mushrooms in cooking. 

“People don’t realise that this could be deadly.”

Ms Adamo said any mushrooms growing in the wild can cause serious poisoning, including the Death Cap mushroom, which if eaten can lead to potentially fatal organ damage.

“It is never recommended to pick and eat wild mushrooms as it is very difficult to identify which mushrooms are safe to eat,” she said. 

Poisonous mushrooms in Australia can look like edible mushrooms from Europe and Asia, Ms Adamo admitted, and changes in the appearance of mushrooms during the life cycle make it difficult to identify safely.

“Changes in environmental conditions mean toxic mushrooms can grow in a spot where previously only edible mushrooms grew, so the fact you have safely eaten mushrooms growing in that spot previously is no guarantee that it is safe to pick mushrooms again,” she warned.

“Cooking or boiling wild mushrooms also does not make them safe to eat, which is why we strongly advise against foraging for mushrooms, and encourage people to only eat store bought mushrooms.

“Eating wild mushrooms is not worth the risk.”

Poisonous mushrooms commonly cause nausea and vomiting, but can also lead to liver and kidney damage. 

Symptoms can be delayed but early treatment is vital.

To prevent accidental exposure to wild mushrooms, check the garden before allowing children to play as mushrooms can pop up overnight.

Remove and dispose of any mushrooms in the garden or playground.

Anyone who is exposed to wild mushrooms should call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26.

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