Not mushroom for error

HEALTH chiefs are warning people to take extra care when picking wild mushrooms following a rise in the number of poisonings.

Each year scores of people need medical advice after eating toxic varieties of mushroom that they have picked themselves, with some varieties of mushroom having fatal levels of toxin.

So far this year, the National Poisons Information Service has been consulted on more than 120 poisonings with 45 cases being ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’.

Dr John Thompson, director of the NPIS unit in Cardiff, said: “The mushroom season is just getting underway in earnest which is why we need people to be aware of the potential dangers involved in this activity.

“While many mushrooms growing in the wild are delicious and safe to eat, it is not always easy, even for people with experience, to differentiate between toxic and non-toxic species.

“The NPIS therefore advises that people should not eat mushrooms collected in the wild unless they are familiar with the various species that grow in the UK and are sure that the mushrooms they have collected are safe to eat.”

Dr John Cooper, director of the Health Protection Agency’s centre for radiation, chemicals and environment hazards, said: “As people head out to gather wild food this autumn they should be aware that there can be dangers involved.

“Correctly identifying the mushrooms that are safe to pick and eat is the key to ensuring that foraging is good fun – and does not become a danger to your health.”