Mushroom watch

WITH the mushroom season almost upon us experts are warning enthusiasts of wild foods to be on their guard against picking the wrong ones.

The Health Protection Agency says that each year scores of people need medical attention after eating toxic varieties of mushroom that they have picked themselves.

Some varieties of mushroom in the UK are so toxic they can kill within 24 hours, but most just cause unpleasant side effects. Foragers should also remember that the toxins in some of the most dangerous mushrooms are generally not destroyed by cooking.

So far this year the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS), which provides advice to doctors, reports 120 cases, with 45 classed as moderate or severe. Most cases involving poisoning last year were in children under 10.

It is expected wild mushrooms will not be as prolific this year because it has not been as warm.

The advice to foragers from the NPIS is not to eat mushrooms collected in the wild unless familiar with the various species.