Incidents » Disasters, catastrophes
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Wild mushrooms kill ten and poison hundreds in Russia

The year 1992 was the most horrible period in the region, when over 400 mushroom-pickers were hospitalized, 44 of whom died

Epidemic of mushroom poisonings has started in the Voronezh region of Russia. Ten people, including one child, have died of poisonous mushrooms in the region in July, regional Surgeon General, Mikhail Chubirko, stated Monday. Fifty-eight residents of the Voronezh region suffered from eating poisonous mushrooms in summer. Thirty-two people are still staying at local hospitals with acute poisoning. The majority of patients are elderly people: they said that they did not even know what mushrooms exactly they had used for food, Itar-Tass reported.

Moreover, several doctors of the Voronezh regional hospital were hospitalized were food poisoning too: the doctors cooked and ate mushrooms during the weekend.

Regional medics call upon the local population not to collect mushrooms in the woods, if they have even slightest doubts about food peculiarities of the popular Russian snack.

Russian people suffer from toadstool every year. The majority of incidents are connected with people's failure to comply with elementary rules: they either mix poisonous mushrooms up with edible ones, or cook edible mushrooms incorrectly. There is another alarming tendency, though: people suffer from eating the mushrooms, which have always been valued for their food qualities: cep, saffron milk cap and chanterelle mushrooms, for example. These mushrooms may often lead to lethal outcomes even if they were collected by experienced mushroom-pickers.

The Voronezh region is Russia's leading territory on the number of mushroom poisonings: the passion for forest food has killed 128 people over the recent five years in the region. The year 1992 was the most horrible period in the region at this point, when over 400 mushroom-pickers were hospitalized, 44 of whom died. About 360 individuals were hospitalized with acute food poisoning and 28 of them deceased in 1999. 

Local specialists say that there is a variety of mushrooms growing in the Voronezh region of Russia: about 500 species, including 90 species of inedible and poisonous mushrooms. Other specialists believe that mushrooms and their spawn absorbs all hazardous substances and heavy metal salts, which accumulate in the soil. An edible mushroom picked not far from a chemical factory may therefore kill a mushroom-picker easily. There are a lot of factories and plants in the Voronezh region, which harm the environment with pollutant emissions in the atmosphere. Rains return hazardous chemicals to the ground, where they may often be saved in the mushroom spawn.

Doctors say that methods of instructions and recommendations will now help solve the problem of acute mushroom poisonings. As a rule, Russian people suffer from toadstools because of their unwillingness to pay for mushrooms in stores: they prefer to pick and eat them for free. In addition, the majority of Russian mushroom-pickers, presumably the elderly, receive low incomes. To crown it all, going to pick mushrooms in the woods is a very popular and traditional hobby with many Russians.

A similar story has recently happened in the southwest China, where nearly 50 people died and dozens were sickened from eating poisonous wild. One hundred and eighty-three individuals have been hospitalized in China with mushroom poisoning since the beginning of the year, 48 of whom died, Xinhua News Agency said.