Israel Poison Center to Mushroom Pickers: Cooking does not stop poisoning

With the rains in winter, mushrooms poke their heads through the ground in forests or even lawns. Mushrooms are fungi that originate from small spores, and in the wild they release their own spores that fall to the ground or are carried by the wind. They appear suddenly due to their rapid growth rate, doubling in size in 24 hours (4% per hour).

Although only a few of the 70 to 80 species of poisonous mushrooms are actually fatal if ingested, many of these deadly mushrooms bear an uncanny resemblance to edible species and are therefore particularly dangerous. The deadly mushroom is the most toxic mushroom in the world because it contains alpha-amanitin, which causes kidney and liver failure. Swallowing just half a cap can be fatal.

The “false artist” mushroom on the LEFT – highly toxic. The “false artist” mushroom on the LEFT – highly toxic. RIGHT – The swamp artist mushroom – not poisonous, but not recommended for consumption (Credit: Yaniv Segal/Israel Poison Information Center)

Picking wild mushrooms (macromushrooms) has become a popular activity in Israel in recent years. Besides the estimated 135 edible species, Israel’s mycobiota also includes about 65 poisonous and potentially dangerous species.

According to a study published earlier this year in the journal Mycologia by experts at the Israel Poison Information Center at the Rambam Health Care campus in Haifa and colleagues, in the decade ending in 2021, only four percent of exposures to poisonous biological substances were caused by mushrooms. .

Males are significantly more affected than females and most cases involve either over 18 years of age or under 6 years of age.

The most common mushrooms in poisonings in Israel are of the genus Inocybe and the green spore mushroom (Chlorophyllum molybdites).

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The Rambam said Thursday that a woman in her 40s was hospitalized there for severe poisoning from a poisonous wild mushroom she had picked, cooked and eaten. Fortunately, she was helped in time and is out of danger. According to the Poison Information Center. This is the 11th case of poisoning at the hospital since the beginning of December; some of these involved group poisoning of people sharing the same meal. In one case this year, liver damage was caused. In previous years, there were life-threatening cases that required prolonged hospitalization in an intensive care unit and even complex treatment such as dialysis and chemotherapy.

The director of the Information Center, Dr. Yael Luria, said that “mushroom poisoning can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms from nausea and vomiting to multisystem damage, depending on the type of mushroom and the amount that is consumed. Fungal identification is important for medical decision-making and is a very complex matter. At the poison center, we are assisted by mushroom identification experts and volunteers who help us identify the mushrooms.

In light of the case of the woman who was hospitalized at Rambam, Luria stressed that in most cases, cooking does not destroy the toxins found in the mushroom. Every year with the onset of the winter season and the rains, cases of poisoning from eating wild mushrooms begin to appear across the country. It is very difficult for the untrained eye to distinguish highly poisonous mushrooms from others.

Regarding picking mushrooms with children in nature, Luria added that “children are also exposed to mushrooms during this season. Toddlers tend to put everything in their mouths and taste it. Therefore, when you go out in the garden or in nature, you should explain to the children that they should not put plants or mushrooms in their mouths and watch them carefully. When you go out to enjoy nature, it is advisable to enjoy its beauty, to photograph, but not to pick.”

Dr. A.S. Yael Luria, director of the Israel Poison Information Center (Credit: Yaniv Segal/Israel Poison Information Center)

Besides the health risk, nature conservation also has an ecological aspect. Mushrooms play an important role in the ecological balance and their uncontrolled collection harms the species diversity in them. If you still feel like eating mushroom soup or a dish with mushrooms, make it only from the excellent mushrooms that can be bought in the supermarket today, urged Luria.

In case of poisoning or suspected poisoning, you can call the Israel Poison Information Center at 04-777-1900.

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