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Health officials see increase in wild mushroom poisonings

Posted Sept. 29, 2011, at 6:39 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 29, 2011, at 6:54 a.m.
Susan Hubble's daughter, Lydia Balzano, holds a giant mushroom found at the entrance to the Falmouth Country Club. The family plans to eat it, but experts say beware.
MPBN photo
Susan Hubble's daughter, Lydia Balzano, holds a giant mushroom found at the entrance to the Falmouth Country Club. The family plans to eat it, but experts say beware.

Summer in Maine wrapped up with several weeks of warm, wet weather, leading to a bumper crop of wild mushrooms. Foragers are happy, but Maine Public Broadcasting Network reports that public health officials and others are concerned that more wild mushrooms will lead to more wild mushroom poisonings, contributing to a growing problem in the state.

“For the last four years, which averaged about 130 cases annually, at least 80 percent involve children who eat the fungi accidentally, or people who are trying to get high off hallucinogenic mushrooms.

But there have been 176 cases already this year. And Simone says the number of sickened foragers is at least three times higher than past years.

‘”Certainly you can associate this with rains, so that there’s a large crop of mushrooms growing out there,” she says. “But I also have to think that, you know, there’s a bad economy and everyone’s trying to go back to nature, and most people think that if it’s natural it’s not poisonous, which is pretty far from being true.’ ”

And while no one can prevent amateur foragers from eating wild mushrooms or serving them to family and friends, Simone and other support regulating the sale of wild mushrooms to restaurants and other commercial users.

Read or listen to Josie Huang’s story here.

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