Health authorities are urging people to not pick or eat toxic mushrooms, warning recent rain has created "ideal conditions" for the growth of the poisonous fungus in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Victoria's deputy chief health officer Angie Bone on Wednesday issued the warning following a record number of calls about mushroom poisoning incidents to Victoria's poisons information centre last year.

"The recent conditions have been ideal for poisonous mushrooms, and recent rains have seen them start to sprout in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria," she said.

"While commercially sold mushrooms are safe, poisonings can occur when people gathering wild mushrooms inadvertently include toxic species. Poisonous mushrooms may appear very similar to edible varieties."

Death cap mushrooms are usually found near deciduous trees, especially around oaks, in some Melbourne suburbs and rural areas.
Death cap mushrooms are usually found near deciduous trees, especially around oaks, in some Melbourne suburbs and rural areas.

Last year there were 426 calls about potential mushroom poisoning, more than double the number of calls in the previous two years - 194 calls in 2019 and 200 calls in 2018.

There were multiple poisoning cases requiring admission and treatment in an intensive care unit.

Dr Bone warned people to be on the lookout for two toxic mushrooms, the death cap fungus and the yellow staining mushroom.

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 commonly found yellow staining mushroom turns yellow when the cap or stem is bruised by a thumbnail.

She said the most dangerous variety was the death cap, usually found near deciduous trees, especially around oaks, in some Melbourne suburbs and rural areas.

Victoria‘s deputy chief health officer Dr Angie Bone issued the warning following a record number of calls about mushroom poisoning incidents to Victoria’s poisons information centre last year. Picture: Alex Coppel.
Victoria‘s deputy chief health officer Dr Angie Bone issued the warning following a record number of calls about mushroom poisoning incidents to Victoria’s poisons information centre last year. Picture: Alex Coppel.

Dr Bone said anyone who became ill after eating mushrooms needed to seek urgent medical advice and, if possible, take samples of the whole mushroom for identification.

"Symptoms of poisoning can include violent stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea Symptoms may subside after a day or two, but this doesn't necessarily mean recovery in the case of death cap poisoning," Dr Bone said.

"Death can follow within 48 hours from serious liver damage. The death cap is extremely toxic and responsible for 90 per cent of all mushroom poisoning deaths.

"If you have any doubts about a species of fungus or mushroom, don't eat it. Cooking, peeling or drying these mushrooms does not remove or inactivate the poison."

Originally published as Urgent alert for toxic 'death' mushrooms


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