October 22, 2016

LA School District Issues Safety Alert About Wild Mushrooms

Some elementary school children at the Los Angeles Unified School District got sick after eating wild mushrooms that were growing in a community garden, according to several news reports. The district issued a safety alert press release stating “students and staff (and others) must not ingest wild mushrooms because many species are poisonous and proper identification is not easy.”

Green-spored Parasol Mushroom

Penn State Food Safety has collected articles on this incident and states that seventeen children were sickened. They say “a volunteer thought the mushroom – later identified as green-spored parasol, a common poisonous wild mushroom – was an edible part of the garden.”

Green-spored Parasol is known as Chlorophyllum molybdites. It is the most commonly consumed poisonous mushroom in North America. This mushroom looks very much like the edible parasol mushroom, shaggy mane, and button mushrooms, and grows in lawns and green areas across eastern North America and California. People can get very sick after eating this mushroom, but according to most experts, no one has died.

Community gardens present food safety risks because so many people visit them and eat food from them. Good agricultural practices should be followed at all times with these establishments. Proper fertilization, good hand washing techniques, washing produce before eating it, using potable water for watering, and cleaning food contact surfaces are all important to prevent food borne illness.

The press release says that according to the North American Mycological Association, mushroom poisoning symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation. Symptoms happen quickly, within 20 minutes to 4 hours after eating the mushrooms. They include vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. When the mushroom is expelled from the body, symptoms usually go away.

If someone thinks they have eaten a poisonous mushroom, call your local poison control center for help. You can also contact a doctor.

Wild mushrooms often appear after a rain in planters, lawns, and gardens and should be immediately removed when found on school campuses, according to the press release. And people responsible for gardens and grounds should be educated in how to avoid wild mushrooms.

According to ABC7, parents at the Micheltorena Elementary School in Silver Lake met with school officials after the incident happened the week of September 19, 2016. Children at that school ate the poisonous mushrooms during their regular weekly trip to the community garden. Some of the children were hospitalized because their symptoms were so serious. Most of the children recovered fairly quickly.

The garden has been closed so public health officials can investigate and inspect the area. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Acute Communicable Disease Control Division is also investigating this incident.

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