"When in doubt, throw it out" warn experts after hiker poisoned by wild mushrooms

Man foraging for mushrooms in woodland
(Image credit: Getty)

Experts have warned hikers to be extremely careful when foraging for wild mushrooms after a Canadian man was poisoned by fungi foraged on a hiking trail. 

The man was hiking with a companion along an isolated trail in British Columbia when he  began to feel unwell, with stomach problems and lapses of consciousness. As CTV News Vancouver reports, his friend called emergency services, but the difficult terrain meant it took a long time for rescuers to reach them.

Two search and rescue crews drove 45 minutes to the nearest trail access point, then spent another hour walking to the two hikers' location at a remote cabin. Both had eaten the mushrooms, which they had picked to eat as part of their dinner, but only one was suffering 'severe effects'.

"Just don't eat it"

The fungi were described as red with white spots, which suggests they may have been fly agaric, but their stalks have been sent for testing to verify the species.

Chef Robin Kort of Swallow Tail Culinary Adventures told CTV News that hikers should approach mushroom foraging slowly and carefully, and never eat anything that they're not entirely certain is safe.

“As someone who is learning to forage, you want to start with basic ones that don’t have poisonous lookalikes, and move along,” said Kort. “Number one is when in doubt, throw it out. If you don’t know what it is, just don’t eat it.”

The Canadian hikers were both in a stable condition, but not all amateur foragers are so lucky. In 2017, 14 people were poisoned after eating wild death cap mushrooms. According to the LA Times, three of those hospitalized needed a liver transplant, including an 18-month-old girl.

Nevertheless, Kort says she doesn't want to make people 'fungi-phobic'. "It’s fine to pick mushrooms up, handle them, even if they’re poisonous mushrooms, but it’s about ingestion," she said,

"If you choose to make that step from just looking at it to eating it, you just have to know what it is."

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.