Health warning after 84 people fall ill from mushroom poisoning

Mushrooms can provide rich pickings - at a cost Credit: Meridian

People setting out for autumnal countryside walks have been urged to take care if they are planning to forage for mushrooms after dozens of people fell ill from poisoning. The New Forest is one of the main areas for mushroom pickers.

Public Health England (PHE) said 84 cases of mushroom poisoning have been reported so far this year and the foraging season is only just under way. Last year, PHE's National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) recorded 237 cases of poisoning across the UK, with many involving children under the age of 10.

The health body warned that some varieties that grow wild in the UK can cause serious illness, with some even being fatal.

The dangers of foraging for mushrooms were highlighted in 2008 when the author of best-selling book The Horse Whisperer was taken to hospital. Nicholas Evans and three family members had to be put on kidney dialysis after eating toxic mushrooms they had gathered on a woodland walk.

"As the weather starts to change many people will soon be heading out to the countryside to seek out wild food which can be a really fun thing to do," said Dr John Thompson, director of the NPIS. "But when it comes to wild mushrooms people really need to be aware of the very real potential dangers involved."