The Death Cap Mushroom Is Just as Terrifying as It Sounds. Here’s Why.

The Death Cap Mushroom Is Just as Terrifying as It Sounds. Here’s Why.

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Susmita Baral
Jun 14, 2017
Dangerous Mushroom
(Image credit: Vlad Siaber/Shutterstock)

Mushrooms are delicious, but they can also be very dangerous if you don't know how to navigate the varieties that grow in the wild. The types sold in supermarkets are fine, but the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) wants to warn consumers about picking up mushrooms from the wild for consumption.

Their words of wisdom? Don't do it without consulting a fungi specialist first.

"Mycologists recommend exercising caution when foraging or purchasing wild mushrooms for consumption," reads the report published in the June 2 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. "If wild mushrooms are to be consumed, specimens should first be examined, identified, and deemed edible by an experienced mycologist."

According to the CDC, 14 people in northern California were poisoned by a crop of "death cap" mushrooms — formally called Amanita phalloides — back in December. Commonly accepted to be the world's most dangerous mushroom, the early symptoms of mushroom poisoning are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. While all 14 survived, three victims required liver transplants and a toddler has suffered permanent brain damage.

The report notes that death cap mushrooms are responsible for 90 percent of mushroom-related deaths. "These mushrooms are large, beautiful, delicious, and deadly, with toxins that are not destroyed by cooking," wrote the North American Mycological Association.

Mushroom poisonings take place every year, but December's incident was a larger-scale outbreak, reports CBS. Last year saw a spike in wild mushrooms courtesy of rainfall and warm weather. This, coupled with an increased interest in foraging, may explain the uptick in poisonings.

For those who enjoy sourcing their own mushrooms, the CDC recommends using caution. "Wild-picked mushrooms should be evaluated by a trained mycologist before ingestion," writes the CDC in the report. "Inexperienced foragers should be strongly discouraged from eating any wild mushrooms."

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