Officials with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are reminding the public that collecting and eating hazardous wild mushrooms can lead to serious illness and even death.

Amanita muscaria, mushroom
Fly agaric
Image/ cafepampas

This comes after nearly 700 wild mushroom poisoning cases were reported statewide from November 2015 to October 2016.

CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith says, “It is difficult to distinguish between wild mushrooms that are poisonous and those which are safe to eat. Wild mushrooms should not be eaten unless they have been carefully examined and determined to be edible by a mushroom expert.”

Of the poisoning cases in the past year, three suffered a major health outcome, such as liver failure leading to coma and/or a liver transplant, or kidney failure requiring dialysis; 50 suffered a moderate health outcome, such as dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea, or injury to the liver or kidney; 348 were children under six years of age. Usually the children ate a small amount of a mushrooms growing in yards or neighborhood parks; 415 were treated at a health care facility and eight were admitted to an intensive care unit.

In Monterey County, health officials report that local hospitals have recently reported an increase in illnesses resulting from eating poisonous wild mushrooms.

“Some poisonous wild mushrooms look and smell like edible types of mushrooms,” says Dr. Edward Moreno, Monterey County Health Officer.  “Only people with extensive training and experience should eat wild mushrooms that they have picked themselves.”

The most serious illnesses and deaths have been linked primarily to wild mushrooms known to cause liver damage, including Amanita phalloides , also known as the “death cap” and Amanita ocreata , or “destroying angel.” These and other poisonous mushrooms grow in some parts of California year-round, but are most commonly found during fall, late winter or spring.

Eating poisonous mushrooms can cause abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting and diarrhea.  Individuals who develop any of these symptoms after eating wild mushrooms should seek immediate medical attention.  In some instances, consuming poisonous mushrooms can lead to liver damage and death.  People with symptoms and their health care providers may contact California Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for guidance on diagnosing and treating mushroom poisoning.