April 30, 2013
Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is warning residents to be cautious when consuming wild mushrooms. In general, eating wild mushrooms is dangerous unless you are an expert in their identification. It is recommended that children not eat any wild mushrooms and adults who eat them must first ensure they are safe. DPHS does periodically learn of people showing up in emergency departments after becoming ill from eating wild mushrooms and public health officials want to make sure people are aware of the risk.
“In the past several years we have continued to hear of people that become ill after eating wild mushrooms” said Public Health Director Dr. José Montero. “We want to make sure everyone knows about the dangers of wild mushrooms potentially being poisonous especially since they may encounter them doing outdoor spring activities. Consumers should be cautious about purchasing wild mushrooms from foragers. The person who forages for wild mushrooms must be an expert in mushroom identification since some poisonous mushrooms look exactly the same as the non-poisonous types.”
Since there are no certification requirements for mushroom foragers in New Hampshire, wild mushrooms cannot be sold to retail food establishments since they are not grown in controlled environments and because of the inherent risk associated with the improper identification of non-toxic species.
In 2009, DPHS surveillance detected 8 cases of emergency room visits due to ingesting wild mushrooms. In 2010 that number was 11, there were 31 cases in 2011, and only 2 in 2012. “We hope this means people are paying more attention to this issue, but we don’t know for sure,” said Montero. “It could be there were fewer mushrooms last year because of the drier weather so we need to continue to warn people about this issue.”
There is no approved treatment for mushroom poisoning. Symptoms may not begin until hours after ingestion and can include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, severe diarrhea, a change in heart rhythm, and low blood pressure. There are many different types of mushrooms that grow in New Hampshire, and some of them are toxic. Small amounts of wild mushrooms often cause little or no effect when swallowed. However, as little as one bite of a poisonous mushroom can cause serious injury or death. Many toxic mushrooms look a lot like non-toxic ones.
If someone tastes or eats a wild mushroom, call the Northern New England Poison Center (NNEPC) right away at 1-800-222-1222. Trained nurses and pharmacists staff the Poison Center 24-hour helpline. For more information, visit the NNEPC website at www.mmc.org/workfiles/mmc_services/Mushroom%202-7-06.pdf.