California Poison Control warns wild mushroom foraging can be dangerous

Many people enjoy foraging for wild mushrooms.

It’s a popular activity, but one that can have severe consequences like serious illness and even death if people don’t make sure the mushrooms are not poisonous before eating them reports California Poison Control.

In fact, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 1,400 emergency department visits every year are a result of accidental mushroom poisoning. The report found that 9 percent of patients experience serious health problems, such as an irregular heartbeat, kidney or liver failure, and seizures.

“While it’s early in California’s rainy season, the anticipation is that this year there will be heavy rains, which will contribute to a bumper crop of Amanita phalloides or “death cap” mushrooms.

These mushrooms are found abundantly throughout the state and can easily be mistaken for other edible mushrooms,” said Rais Vohra, Medical Director for the Fresno/Madera Division of CPCS. “The arrival of these mushrooms, which have already been spotted around the Bay Area, frequently are the precursor to an increase in human poisonings reported to CPCS.”

Eating poisonous mushrooms can cause abdominal pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and organ failure, including liver damage. Fatalities are uncommon, but do occur.

Symptoms typically develop six to 12 hours after eating. Serious symptoms do not always occur immediately after eating; sometimes it can be days or weeks later. The most serious illnesses and deaths have been linked to mushrooms that cause liver damage, including the death cap, as well as the “destroying angel” or Amanita ocreata.

Regardless of how experienced a person is at mushroom identification, there is always a risk in eating wild mushrooms that were gathered by an individual or picked by friends or family members.

Contrary to folklore which says poisonous mushrooms are brightly colored, poisonous mushrooms typically look just like most edible mushrooms.

The safest way to ensure that mushrooms are harmless to eat is to purchase cultivated ones from a reputable food market.

About CPCS
Call Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 (number is the same in all states) for questions about poison encounters. Trained pharmacists, nurses and other providers are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are available. Get weekly tips about safety by texting TIPS to 20121 for English or texting PUNTOS to 20121 for Spanish. Follow CPCS on Facebookand on Twitter @poisoninfo. CPCS is part of the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and is responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.