CLEVELAND – Across the country, food foraging is becoming popular as many people are turning the idea of ‘farm to table’ into ‘field to table’ by going out into nature and gathering natural and wild ingredients to cook and eat.
However, foraging does not come without risk.
According to Christina Lindenmeyer, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, certain mushrooms that grow in the wild can be dangerous to consume and in some cases deadly.
“These mushrooms actually contain high levels of toxins and even up to just a half a cap of the top of the mushroom can be lethal for an adult human, and obviously a much smaller amount is dangerous for any child,” she said.
Symptoms of poisoning after eating a toxic mushroom include gastrointestinal upset and vomiting.
However, Dr. Lindenmeyer said it can take up to 24 hours for symptoms to develop.
Many people mistakenly think they have a stomach bug, especially if they start to feel better after a day or two, but Dr. Lindenmeyer says that after a couple of days, the damage to the liver has already begun.
Once a person eats a poisonous mushroom, the toxins travel from the gut to the bloodstream and then straight to the liver, where they cause the liver cells to stop making protein.
This can ultimately send a person into organ failure with the need for a liver transplant.
Dr. Lindenmeyer said if someone swallows a toxic mushroom by accident, it’s time to get to the emergency department right away. She said there are measures that can be taken in the emergency room that can limit the spread of the toxins, but they need to be administered within hours of eating the mushrooms.
Mushrooms are more common in certain areas of the country, especially after a rainy spell during the fall months.
Dr. Lindenmeyer said it’s important during this time of year to keep a close eye on children and pets when they’re playing outdoors so that they don’t put any wild mushrooms in their mouths.
There are actually dozens of types of poisonous mushrooms and unless you’re a trained expert, it can be very difficult to tell a harmless mushroom from a poisonous one.
“We always recommend that if you’re going to be foraging for fresh food, including mushrooms, that you have all of your food – and specifically mushrooms – inspected by a mycologist or a mushroom specialist before eating them or before selling them,” said Dr. Lindenmeyer.