Warning to wild mushroom pickers in Scotland

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Media captionWild food foragers are being warned to be careful when picking mushrooms because of a rise in cases of mushroom poisoning

Wild food foragers are being warned to be particularly careful when picking mushrooms because of a rise in cases of fungi poisoning.

Scotland has a particularly rich supply of wild mushrooms.

But this year experts expect to see an increase in the number of people who accidentally poison themselves.

Scottish Natural Heritage's fungus expert Dr David Genney said: "Never eat a mushroom unless you know exactly what it is."

He said: "Although not many species of fungi are deadly poisonous, some deadly poisonous species can be quite abundant."

Image caption Dr Genney said there are a small number of really good edible species

In recent years, TV chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have encouraged food-lovers to pick wild mushrooms, which can be delicious and sell for a premium in shops and restaurants.

However this year alone the National Poisons Information Service has been contacted by medics seeking advice on 84 suspected cases of mushroom poisoning.

Cases noticeably increase in the autumn when mushrooms are most abundant.

Dr Genney encourages foraging for wild mushrooms, as long as people take care.

He said: "There are a small number of really good edible species which, with a little bit of training, you can identify easily.

"I really recommend going out into the wild and getting something which is tasty.

"However, there are also a small number which are deadly poisonous.

"The good thing is that, because there are not that many different types of poisonous fungi, you can learn which ones they are."

Image caption Dr Genney says the false chanterelle could give you a nasty upset stomach
Image caption Fly agaric, one of the amanita species, should always be avoided as they are poisonous and can be deadly
Image caption Shaggy ink cap is edible when it is young. Less tasty as it grows and disintegrates
Image caption Brown roll rim is one to avoid as the toxin can accumulate in the body and can be fatal

The most famous case of mushroom poisoning in recent years occurred in the Highlands in 2008, when the author of the Horse Whisperer and his family accidentally ate deadly webcaps, thinking they were ceps.

Nicholas Evans, his wife and her brother all had to have kidney transplants.

The National Poisons Information Service, which is part of the NHS and offers expert advice to frontline medical staff, said it expected a rise in cases of mushroom poisoning compared to last year.

By the end of 2013, the service had received 237 inquiries related to fungi.

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