Poisoning by mushrooms

Poisoning by mushrooms

On average, a quarter of "mushrooms accidents" in France stems from mushrooms picked in the family property. It's not because no one in your family has never had health trouble in the past by eating all the mushrooms that grow in your garden, that they are good and that you can give them to your neighbors. Do you know that French law prohibits individuals from selling or offering picked mushrooms?

Poisonings are caused by poisonous mushrooms by definition, either through ignorance or confusion. Under a mushroom cap, the reproductive part consists of either prickles or tubes, pores or even folds or most often lamellae. In the case of Amanita eg, insertion and the color of the mature lamellae are essential for determination, and therefore the recognition of toxic or lethal species.

But sometimes accidents advance knowledge because nobody had ingested these mushrooms before. Edible mushrooms are not without risk even if they are picked up healthily in a healthy place, and then with a suitable cooking. Indeed, if you bring your harvest in plastic bags, your mushrooms can become very wet, mold will then develop on their surface and their decomposition will be accelerated. Moreover, some species become toxic in contact with the plastic material: perfect edible can thus become unfit for consumption especially if the consumer has a gastric disabilities. The same with fresh mushrooms sold in the stores, if they have been poorly preserved from harvest.

During mycological exhibition tours, you may have noticed labels with "Reject" to certain fungi. If there is no ambiguity on mushrooms displaying a skull, the collector is worried by "Reject".

In general, mycologists will answer you that this mushroom has a strong odor or a bad taste (sour, bitter), or that this species has no culinary interest, or may be confused with a poisonous lookalike, or even fatal. Allergies can always be possible depending on the individual, and in some cases they can be deadly. More than ever, caution should be in order.

Some species, when consumed in excessive amounts can cause poisoning. This is true even for the best edible: an "overdose" of ceps, chanterelles or trumpets can lead to indigestion, your brain will keep this unfortunate incident in memory and you will become intolerant to these fungi. Clearly, you can no longer consume porcini, chanterelles or trumpets through your all life. So always eat the best edible sparingly. 

Mushrooms are rich in chitin, nitrogen compound that is also found in the cuticle (shells) of insects and that is very difficult to digest. It also has an abundance of special sugars: trehalose and mannitol. The first sugar can be degraded by trehalase, alas missing enzyme by genetic deficiency in some individuals. In this case, the accumulation of trehalose leads to fermentation with severe diarrhea as a consequence. The second sugar induces a high osmotic pressure, responsible for some violent intestinal debacles. The very active metabolism of fungi is also responsible for the synthesis of some complex molecules (antibiotics, etc.) to which some organisms are allergic or intolerant. It is thus clear that excessive consumption of perfectly edible mushrooms can induce, particularly in some people, intolerance reactions which can be very violent and spectacular.

We inform you about a new website with hundreds of pictures of mushrooms to assist and educate hikers on the different species: http://www.champiweb.com

Here is a summary of major toxic and deadly mushrooms (Photo credit: Eric MICHON - Member of the SHNVC - Natural History Society of Voiron and Chartreuse).

- Amanita muscaria

This amanita is toxic, potentially lethal.

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- Amanita phalloides

The deadly fungus is to know absolutely. For an adult, a single little hat is enough to die.

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- Amanita pantherina 

This dangerous fungus can be mistaken for other edible Amanita.

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- Omphalotus illudens 

Unfortunately too often confused with chanterelles, the aspect of "heads", the presence of real blades and bright color should encourage abstinence. Note that Omphalotus olearius grows at the foot of trees, but O. illudens is sometimes found at the foot of oak or chestnut.

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- Hypholoma fasciculare

These toxic mushrooms are commonly found on wood. If their yellow color attracts the eyes of the unwise, the bitterness of these fungi should discourage the boldest.

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We offer you free download of the attached file listing nearly 830 fatal mushrooms, toxic or adverse effects (in French). Its author is Eric MICHON.

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Here are illustrative examples he has developed:

- The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) was used by shamans of Siberia for its symptoms resembling intoxication. It was forgotten that the poisoning is serious (vomiting, pain, cardiac arrhythmias, hypotension), potentially fatal!

- The death cap (Amanita phalloides) contains 7 different groups of poisons and toxins! The lethal dose is between 25g and 35g of flesh for a 75 kg, which is very few. If slugs and rabbits do not fear the fungus, this is not the case of humans and pets. The first symptoms appear within 6 to 24 hours after consumption (10-12 hours on average): vomiting, severe dehydration, hypovolemia (blood deficiency in the circulatory system), RFID, shock, early death or remission, then hepatitis, hepatomegaly, jaundice, cytolysis, liver failure, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, hepatic encephalopathy, hypoglycemia, coagulopathy, IRA, and late death. The death cap is causing 90% of deaths in France following the ingestion of a mushroom. It is the first mushroom to learn to recognize when you are starting out in picking mushrooms. Its main features are (described in terms of everyday language, no offense to mycologists): a green, but sometimes yellowish or white hat, dressed in white blades underneath and a smooth skirt loose enough, with the toe in a white bag, sometimes buried.

- The edible blue foot "Lepista nuda", prized for its tender and tasty flesh, caused digestive syndromes reported in case of too abundant consumption and especially too old mushrooms: it is advisable to pick the best young (purple, farms, wound margin) and avoid older, frozen or imbued (waterlogged).
- The nebulous Clitocybe (Lepista nebularis) consumed in the vernacular name "Tree of Grey" or "Little Grey" in the French Franche-Comté region, sometimes served in some restaurants in Jura has randomly triggered strong discomfort. 20 min to 3 hours after eating, some people have developed digestive disorders (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain). It was noted that, on isolated intoxications (1 person among the guests), symptoms are later but also more severe. The hypothesis of poisoning two mechanisms is plausible but to date no toxins have been identified.
- The returned Clitocybe (Lepita inversa) made people very inconvenienced, and the same for Lepista irina and saeva. The genus Lepista is more than twenty varieties identified in our mountains of eastern France, the most common are: Lepista nebularis, nuda, sordida, flaccida var reversed, glaucocana, saeva, irina and panaeolus . All these mushrooms have a fairly strong taste even after drying.

- White clitocybes (type of poisoning Sudorien) are too often confused with mushrooms or with Meunier (Clitopilus prunulus).

- The Clitocybe walk club (Ampulloclitocybe clavipes) has an antabuse effect characterized by different symptoms: flushing, puff vasomotor, vasodilatation, headache (throbbing), nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, dyspnea, hyper-sweating, vertigo, dizziness, blurred vision, discomfort, faintness, changes in the electrocardiogram, chest pain, confusion and ataxia, as the black ink Coprin; both are all gone in toxic.

- Although very rare, the Clitocybe amoenolens, responsible for acromelalgy (access of intense localized pain in the fingers and toes, to kind of tingling or burning) may be confused with Lepista flaccida var. inversa.

- "Reject" is the word that was displayed for Hapalopilus rutilans. It is now classified "toxic" because poisoning in France in the hinterland of Nice has confirmed the experience of a German couple 20 years ago. Confusion with Fistulina hepatica, has taken to hospital a family from Nice having shown symptoms observed between 6 and 12 hours after ingestion: abdominal pain, dizziness, hallucinations, blurred vision and double vision, general weakness and anorexia, emission purple urine, kidney and liver damage.
- Scleroderma citrina sometimes fraudulently used to falsify the truffle flavor, caused stomach poisoning by voluntary ingestion as megacollybia platyphylla did consumed in large quantities. For the same reasons, Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca would be involved. The mushroom "eaters" do not know parsimony, and yet mycologists advocating for years a rational mushroom consumption!

- Consuming too much of the Auricularia judae caused to skin hemorrhages, which make it the syndrome of Szechwan.

- In 1995 in Monferrato in Isère, Dauphiné-Libéré, local newspaper wrote "a 73 years old man dead after eating trumpets": two days of interrogation before learning the unfortunate, albeit toothless, had eaten trumpets for 6 days. Verdict: bowel obstruction.

- Not enough cooking is suspicious in poisoning with morels and with the pale Boletus (Boletus luridus). Morels are poisonous because they contain raw hemolysins that destroy red blood cells: it is heat labile toxins, that is to say, destroyed by heat, so the morels thus becoming edible, that once cooked for at least 15 minutes. Drying morels, due to exposure to heat (see our blog article on mushrooms drying), destroys toxins. It is thus not necessary to cook dried morels as long as fresh morels. You must also avoid using alcohol by eating morels. In addition, some people may develop an allergy or food sensitivity for morels. If you have never eaten morels, it is advisable to consume a small amount at first. If symptoms appear, do not eat anymore morels.

- Also note the false morel or gyromitre (Gyromitra esculenta) which causes digestive ailments, convulsions, fever, liver damage, kidney problems, haemolysis, coma.

- The Canary, also called Bidaou in Basque country (Tricholoma equestre) has caused several deaths in France in 2000 and 2001. The victims, who had acute rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle cells) would have made excessive consumption. Similarly for Tricholoma auratum: both species are banned from sale since 2005.

- Several deaths in Japan were due to ingestion of Pleurocybella porrigens. Most victims had renal failure with symptoms suggestive of metabolic encephalopathy (disorder of the march and consciousness).

- Schizophyllum, very common in our region on cut or dead tree trunks caused in India, for some people with deficient immune level, invasive severe infections: infection in a patient with bronchopulmonary allergies, but also case of brain abscess for a person sensitive to sinusitis. Cases of maxillary sinusitis with nasal obstruction have been caused by this species only the surgical dissection is effective in this case.

- In recent years, allergy symptoms (skin, respiratory or digestive) appeared after ingesting edible species yet: Paris mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus), oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) and porcini (Boletus edulis) . Also of breathing problems have been reported with Coprinus comatus, Agaricus campestris and Lycoperdon perlatum.

- The Shii-take (Lentinus edodes) has caused skin allergies sometimes with itchy welts.

- In the case of weak heart for example, some edible as Amanita rubescens and Armillaria mellea will have to be taken at very low level. These armillary with honey color are further reviviscent mushrooms that pass for fresh mushrooms, while the blades have become stained with red, confirming an advanced age.

- Gastro-enteritis were observed after ingestion of Cudonia circinans and Spathularia flavida.

- The wound paxillus (Tapinella involuta) is responsible of the Paxillien syndrome. The vicious nature of this syndrome comes from what there are inert strains and immunogenic strains. If one has the misfortune to consume a sufficient number of times immunogenic paxilles (several meals), antibody stock accumulated in the body can trigger at the next meal, and a massive haemolysis and various disturbances can lead to death.

- Several cortinaires from the orellanus group are fungi which toxins attack the kidneys. The symptoms are very late, usually several days after the meal! One confusion of annatto color cortinaires with chanterelles is enough to be dialyzed with lifelong treatment.

- The Leprocybes are unfortunately too often picked up as people enjoy their beautiful color and beautiful appearance of these species!

- Until recently, among the gentle russules, Russula olivacea caused poisoning in the Spanish Basque country. Local mycologists recorded over the past two decades, more than 40 cases of poisoning with this fungus with fairly late gastrointestinal symptoms (6-8 hours): the russules were consumed undercooked especially prepared on barbecue . Mycologist of Switzerland has witnessed severe vomiting, relatively late (about 4 hours) caused by the consumption of this russule probably not cooked either.

Remind rules to follow:

In a statement, the General Directorate for Health (DGS) and the Institut National de Veille Sanitaire (INVS) remind the caution rules to comply with facing poisonous mushrooms, which can look like many edible species.

- "Do not pick mushrooms that you know well" and "in doubt", it is necessary to control its harvest by a specialist, pharmacist first.

- "Pick only the specimens in good condition", "do not pick near polluted sites" and "separate the mushrooms harvested by species" because a poisonous fungus can infect others.

- Tremor, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting: symptoms of poisoning may appear up to two hours after consumption.

- In case of emergency, immediately call a poison control center (www.centres-antipoison.net) or the center 15.

And more tips in conclusion: before preparing your wild mushrooms for consumption, ask yourself yet whether you are sure of their edibility. Did you consult a specialist (expert mycologist or pharmacist)? And if you're wrong anyway? When in doubt, do not cook, do not eat.

And avoid eating at the same time several different species of wild mushrooms in the same dish. Even if you are sure you, keep at least one fresh sample and a picture of your entire harvest: this valuable information may be able to help poison centers to pick you up faster.


For mushroom identification guides in French, here are our recommendations:

L’indispensable guide du cueilleur de champignons  (Belin – 15€) - the essential guide for mushroom picker: pocket size, with a plastic covered (which is very convenient in the field).

Les champignons dans la nature (Delachaux et Niestlé – 29€40) - mushrooms in nature: all the mushrooms of our regions, photographed from all angles.

And finally here the reference bibles from eminent French mycologists:

Champignons de France et d’Europe Occidentale (Marcel BON – Flammarion – 23€50) - mushrooms of France and Western Europe

Champignons de France et d’Europe (Régis COURTECUISSE et Bernard DUHEM – Delachaux et Niestlé – 35€40) - mushrooms of France and Europe

Le guide des champignons France et Europe (Guillaume EYSSARTIER et Pierre ROUX – Belin – 36€) - guide to Mushrooms France and Europe


Photo crédit "Amanita muscaria": Michel RICHARD - Société Mycologique du Haut-Rhin (Mycological Society of Upper Rhine )

Posted on 09/22/2016 Everything about mushrooms 0 15463

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