Picking mushrooms: practical advice from ANSES to avoid poisoning

Picking mushrooms: practical advice from ANSES to avoid poisoning

This year, mushroom picking started early. This leads the National Food Safety Agency to recall that vigilance is essential to avoid poisoning, which is sometimes fatal.

It’s already time to pick mushrooms in the undergrowth. But like every year, the lack of knowledge and vigilance can have serious consequences. Thus the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) issued a call for vigilance on August 31: more than 250 cases of poisoning have already been identified by poison control centers in 2023, twice as many as in 2022!

In 2023, poisonings from August

The rainy weather in several regions of Europe from this month of August has favored the growth of mushrooms. Since August 1, 2023, poisonings reported to poison control centers have increased: more than 250 cases have already been identified, twice as many as in 2022.

At the origin of these poisonings, the pickers make various errors: confusion of an edible species with a toxic species, sometimes due to the use of a mushroom recognition application on a smartphone giving an erroneous identification of the mushrooms picked, or consumption of edible mushrooms in poor condition, badly preserved or insufficiently cooked.

The agency points the finger at the mushroom recognition applications on smartphones which very often give an erroneous identification of the mushrooms picked, and which cannot be trusted. Of the 1,923 poisonings recorded in 2022, 30 people had used recognition applications on smartphones.

In 2022, poisonings on the rise

Between July 1 and December 31, 2022, 1,923 poisonings had been reported. While this number was higher than in previous years (1,269 in 2021), the number of serious cases was down slightly with 37 cases of high severity (compared to 41 in 2021) including two deaths (compared to 4 deaths in 2021).

ANSES reiterates that it is not recommended to serve wild-picked mushrooms to young children. Yet in 2022, 74 young children were poisoned, including an 11-month-old child with severe hepatitis requiring intensive care.

In the event of poisoning, the symptoms observed are essentially digestive:

  • Abdominal pain ;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea.

How to pick mushrooms safely?

The advice should be repeated each year to avoid dangerous situations:

  • Only collect mushrooms you know perfectly well: some highly toxic mushrooms are very similar to edible species.
  • If in doubt about the identification of one of the mushrooms harvested, do not eat the harvest before having it checked by a specialist in the field: pharmacist or mycology association.
  • Never feed the mushrooms you have picked to young children.
  • Do not consume mushrooms identified by means of a smartphone mushroom recognition application, due to the high risk of error.

ANSES has compiled all the best practices to adopt before, during and after picking mushrooms.

Mushroom picking - ANSES recommendations