Due to an unseasonal rise in wild mushroom poisonings across the State, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust together with NSW Health have issued a warning against eating them.
Dr Brett Summerell, Deputy Executive Director at the Royal Botanic Gardens says recent wet and humid weather have provided ideal growing conditions for wild mushrooms, including toxic varieties.
“Mushroom production is greatest usually between March and June when the weather starts to cool but this year the season has kicked in early because of these factors,” Dr Summerell says.
“Those foraging and collecting wild mushrooms need to know that it’s difficult to distinguish between edible and poisonous mushrooms. The best thing to do is avoid eating wild mushrooms.
“I must stress, that unless you’re with an expert who knows each individual species of mushroom very, very well, you should not eat them, because many species are toxic and cause illnesses and in some cases, death,” he says.
Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Director of NSW Health Protection with NSW Health, says there is concern about an increase in poisoning cases linked to eating wild mushrooms.
“So far in February 10 people have attended NSW hospital emergency departments with poisoning after eating wild mushrooms – eight more cases than is usually recorded for this time of the year,” Dr McAnulty says.
“Four of the patients were recorded in Nepean Blue Mountains, two in Western Sydney, three in Central Coast and one in the Illawarra Shoalhaven.
“An increased number of patients typically present to emergency departments after consuming wild mushroom poisonings during the autumn months.
“Eating poisonous mushrooms can cause abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Some varieties of mushrooms, such as Death Cap mushrooms, can cause death due to kidney and liver damage.
“It is important for people to remember that commercially available mushrooms are safe to eat.”
The mushroom season is likely to continue for the next few months.
The ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Paul Kelly, also issued a warning earlier this month that Death Cap mushrooms had been found in the ACT, and were easily confused with edible wild mushrooms.
“All parts of the Death Cap mushroom are poisonous, and eating just one can be fatal,” he says. “Cooking the Death Cap mushroom does not make it safe.
“It can be extremely difficult for even experienced collectors to distinguish the small button Death Cap from an edible mushroom.
“In Canberra, Death Cap mushrooms grow mainly near established oak trees in mild, moist weather typically observed in late summer and autumn.”
“Anyone who suspects that they might have eaten Death Cap mushrooms should seek urgent medical attention at a hospital emergency department.
“The sooner treatment begins, the better the patient’s chances of survival,” Dr Kelly says.
In the last 15 years, there have been four fatalities associated with Death Cap mushrooms in the ACT. During this period there have also been a number of poisonings associated with Death Cap mushrooms in the ACT.