Local health experts warn of mushroom foraging after uptick in poisonings

The Poison Control Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is warning of mushroom foraging after an uptick in poisonings.

There were 11 poisonings reported in the past month. More than half of those individuals were hospitalized, including three people who were admitted to intensive care and one who needed a life-saving organ transplant due to exposure.

"There are many mushrooms that are poisonous and toxic that have very similar appearances to mushrooms that are edible," said Dr. Robert Bassett, Associate Medical Director at Philadelphia Poison Control. "It’s easy to make that mistake and the consequences can be life-threatening."

Symptoms from may not appear for several hours to days after eating poisonous mushrooms, according to poison control experts, and cooking wild mushrooms does not make them safe to eat.


Wild mushrooms that are safe to eat in other parts of the world can look similar to mushrooms here that are highly toxic due to differences in soil and climate.

Experts advise taking a picture of a wild mushroom including the top and bottom of the cap, the stem and the base of the mushroom before you consume it.

The Poison Control Center at CHOP does not recommend eating wild mushrooms unless an experienced mycologist, an expert with a scientific background in mushroom identification, declares it as safe for eating.

Bethany Teigen is the founder of the Philadelphia Mycology Club and said beginners should never consume a wild mushroom without consulting an expert first.

"There are very easy ways to tell them apart if you know what to look for, but the nuances between the differences in species is very, very hard to differentiate sometimes for people who have not looked at them a lot of times, over a lot of years, and people can make mistakes with similar looking mushrooms," said Teigen.

Teigen started the local club because of her genuine interest in mushrooms, and she hopes these incidents won’t discourage others from safe foraging.

"We don’t want people to take this message to mean they should completely stay away from mushrooms or that they’re dangerous. You can touch any mushroom, even the most poisonous mushroom in the world and it will not hurt you," said Teigen.

The Poison Control Center said if you or someone you know has eaten a poisonous mushroom, call 1-800-222-1222 right away. Nurses, pharmacists, and doctors who are trained to recognize all types of poisonings are available.