Deadly mushroom warning after 'concerning' poisoning cases

Ash Cant
·3-min read

An urgent warning has been issued after torrential rain on Australia's east coast resulted in potentially poisonous mushrooms popping up and an influx of calls to a poison information centre. 

The NSW Poisons Information Centre said between January and March this year, there had been 155 calls regarding mushroom exposures.

Of the 155 calls, 95 were accidental exposures, with 80 per cent involving children aged five years old or younger.

Pictured is a deathcap mushroom. Poisonous mushrooms, which grow around oak trees, are springing up around Australia.
The NSW Poisons Information Centre has had over 150 calls regarding mushroom exposures in the first three months of 2021. Source: AAP

However, what the NSW Poisons Information Centre found to be alarming was the 33 calls relating to adults who ate the mushrooms as food.

There were a further 20 calls regarding adults who ingested the mushrooms recreationally.

“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," NSW Poisons Information Centre's Genevieve Adamo, who is senior specialist in poisons information, 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."

Ingesting wild mushrooms not recommended

The NSW Poisons Information Centre does not recommend picking wild mushrooms and ingesting them.

Sometimes poisonous mushrooms which sprout in Australia may look like edible mushrooms seen elsewhere in the world, and they can change in appearance during their life cycle, making edible mushrooms difficult to identify.

“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,” Ms Adamo warned.

Pictured is a mushroom, in a garden amongst the twigs.
There has been an alarming number of adults consuming mushrooms. Source: NSW Poisons Information Centre

“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.”

There are several mushrooms in Australia which may cause serious harm if ingested, including the Death Cap mushroom which is found in southeastern Australia.

The Death Cap mushroom is responsible for 90 per cent of all deaths due to mushroom consumption, the ACT Government warns.

The NSW Poisons Information Centre said consuming poisonous mushrooms generally causes nausea and vomiting, though there were some more severe symptoms which can occur.

Consumption can also lead to liver and kidney damage and while symptoms may be delayed, it is essential treatment is sought early.

It is also advised parents check their garden before allowing children outside to ensure no mushrooms have popped up overnight. Mushrooms should be removed and disposed of.

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

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