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How can we avoid eating harmful wild mushrooms?

The rainy season brings an exciting new range of wild food to our tables, with mushrooms being particularly popular. But some kinds are poisonous and people have died after eating toxic varieties. Vientiane Times asked around to find out what precautions people are taking as they forage for seasonal delicacies.

Ms Bee, a resident of Xaythany district, Vientiane: There are many kinds of wild mushroom and some are highly toxic so it’s important to be able to recognise both edible and dangerous types. In particular, it’s important to be aware that it’s difficult to distinguish between harmful and edible types. Knowing what not to eat is as important as knowing what to eat, and if something can’t be fully identified as being safe, it shouldn’t be eaten. I would like the authorities to give the public more advice about poisonous mushrooms and what first aid to seek if anyone falls ill. We need to know what to do so that no one dies before they can get to a hospital.

Ms Vone Singthasouk, a resident of Huaphan province: Mushrooms are not just used as food, they also have medicinal properties. But many types of wild mushroom can be toxic. I have heard that some people are allergic to some species. Lots of people like to eat mushrooms but nowadays this can be a risky practice. Farmers use chemicals to protect their plants against insects and to speed up their growth. But these chemicals not only affect farmers’ health but can leave residues on plants which may leak into rivers and canals. They may also accumulate in mushrooms and have toxic effects when eaten. I think that to avoid any problems we shouldn’t eat wild mushrooms if we’re not sure about them and don’t know where they’ve come from.

Mr Sisouphan Xayavone, an official in Vientiane: Sometimes mushrooms can be poisonous as they can act as sponges and absorb pesticides and pollutants in the environment, so that mushrooms that are normally edible become toxic. Some people are allergic to mushrooms and some individuals may be sensitive to certain edible varieties while others aren’t. Food poisoning can also occur through improper handling and storage of mushrooms. I have heard that different species of poisonous mushroom have different characteristics, and some are highly toxic and can result in death if eaten. If you develop any unpleasant symptoms after eating mushrooms you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Ms Saeng, a resident of Sikhottabong district, Vientiane: I rely on the information passed down by older people, who say there are easy ways to steer clear of poisonous mushrooms. A mushroom that has been eaten by an animal is safe, any dried fungus is safe, and no mushroom that grows on wood is poisonous. And when cooking mushrooms we must make sure we boil them. The only way to be sure of avoiding poisonous mushrooms is not to eat them if we don’t know where they have grown. It’s possible they may have come from a place where there are chemical residues in the soil, such as near banana and rubber plantations. It costs a lot to buy wild mushrooms but we can spend a lot and die if we eat toxic mushrooms by mistake.

By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update May 13, 2021)


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