Department of Health

Poisonous mushroom warning for Victoria

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

Autumn conditions have created ideal growing conditions for poisonous mushrooms, Victoria’s deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Michael Ackland, warned today.

“People should avoid gathering wild mushrooms around Melbourne, in rural Victoria and from their own gardens because of the risk of collecting poisonous varieties which may appear very similar to edible varieties,” Dr Ackland said.

He identified the dangers of two of the State’s most dangerous varieties, the Death Cap fungus, Amanita phalloides and the Yellow Staining mushroom, Agaricus xanthodermus.

The warning coincides with the arrival of the mushrooming season, spawned when rain encourages growth of the fungi in the still warm earth.

“Poisonings can occur when people gathering wild mushrooms inadvertently include toxic species,” Dr Ackland said.

Dr Tom May, Mycologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, said the Death Cap is widespread across Melbourne in both public and private gardens and also occurs in Victorian regional areas.

“The Death Cap can appear throughout the year but it is most common a week or two after good rains in autumn, so we could expect a bumper crop about now,” Dr May said.

Dr Ackland said if you enjoy eating mushrooms, the best place to obtain them is from a commercial retail food outlet. All mushrooms sold through commercial outlets in Victoria are safe to consume.

“Anyone who becomes ill after eating mushrooms should seek urgent medical advice and, if possible, take samples of the whole mushroom for identification,” Dr Ackland said.

“The symptoms of poisoning may take 10-16 hours to appear after eating and will most likely be stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea.”

The most dangerous variety is the Death Cap, found near deciduous trees, in particular oak trees, in some Melbourne suburbs and rural areas. The Death Cap is a large mushroom, with a cap ranging from light olive green to greenish yellow in colour. The gills are white, and the base of the stem is surrounded by a cup-shaped sac.

“The Death Cap is extremely toxic and responsible for 90 per cent of all mushroom poisoning deaths. Death can follow within 48 hours,” Dr Ackland said.

Dr Ackland said the commonly found Yellow Staining mushroom turns yellow when the cap or stem is bruised by a thumbnail.

“These are often gathered and mixed with field mushrooms. Eating these mushrooms can also cause nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea in some people,” Dr Ackland said.

“If you have any doubts about a species of fungus or mushroom, don’t eat it,”

Images of the death cap mushroom can be found on the department’s food safety website.

More information about fungi poisoning can be found on the Better Health Channel website.

Reviewed 30 April 2014


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Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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