Serious poisoning cases among foreign mushroom pickers
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Every year, the Poisons Information Centre receives numerous enquiries about serious mushroom poisoning. Many of the mushrooms pickers that need hospital treatment come from Asia and Eastern Europe.
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The cases involve tourists who are visiting Norway and permanent residents.
“Statistics from 2011 to 2014 show that over 70 per cent of the patients hospitalised in Norway with potentially severe poisoning have foreign origin, mainly from Asia and Eastern Europe,” says Kristin Opdal Seljetun, senior adviser at the Poisons Information Centre at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Edible and poisonous mushrooms look alike
The reason may be that people from other countries have another foraging culture and they may pick mushrooms that are not considered to be edible in Norway. In addition there is a big difference between the local fungi that grow in different countries and continents.
“An edible mushroom in one country can be very difficult to distinguish from a very poisonous mushroom in Norway,” explains Seljetun.
Which mushrooms are most toxic?
To try to reduce the risk of mushroom poisoning in this group, brochures are available about the most toxic fungi in Norway in 13 languages. They can be downloaded for free:
- Poisonous mushrooms (Helsenorge.no)
August and September are the peak mushroom months. Be careful to follow these tips when picking mushrooms:
- Use updated, reliable mushroom literature when checking mushrooms.
- Only eat mushrooms that you are 100 per cent sure about.
- Only eat mushrooms of good quality. Discard nibbled or rotten mushrooms.
- Be aware of the most commonly confused types.
- Do not eat raw mushrooms. Some edible mushrooms can cause discomfort and / or poisoning in their raw state, or if they are undercooked. Discomfort may also be due to raw mushrooms being more difficult to digest than cooked mushrooms.
- If you are unsure if you have eaten a poisonous mushrooms, call the Poisons Information Centre on +47 22 59 13 00.