FORAGERS planning on adding a taste of nature to their food were today warned about the potentially fatal dangers of eating wild mushrooms.
Ireland has 27 species of toxic wild mushrooms, 13 of them life threatening if consumed.
And as foraging – which involves gathering wild fresh produce – becomes more popular in this country, so do the risks of eating the wrong food.
The alert came after a 57-year-old woman died in the UK from adding poisonous mushrooms to a soup.
"You should not eat wild mushrooms unless you know exactly what you are doing and consult with an expert mushroom forager," a spokeswoman for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said.
The FSAI also warned parents to make sure children do not eat mushrooms growing wild in gardens or fields.
In 2011, 22 cases of food poisoning related to mushrooms were recorded.
The National Poisons Information Centre at Beaumont Hospital said it was contacted about 11 cases of suspected mushroom poisoning in 2012.
"In three of these cases the mushrooms were eaten as part of a meal," a spokeswoman told the Herald.
"We've had no cases as yet this year, but the warning is timely, before mushroom season begins over the summer months."
In the UK, an inquest heard how foraging ended in tragedy for one family recently.
Christina Hale found the Death Cap mushrooms, Amanita Phalloides, while foraging in her garden in Bridgwater, Somerset, and added them to a can of mushroom soup, which she and her husband, Jocelyn Lynch, ate for dinner.
The Death Cap also grows wild in Ireland and experts say it can easily be confused with edible species of mushrooms.
The pair, who have four children between them, fell ill with vomiting and diarrhoea and were taken to hospital, where Ms Hale was taken into intensive care and later died.
The inquest heard that even if Ms Hale had been taken to hospital within hours of eating the mushrooms, it was unlikely she would have survived.
There is no antidote and the only treatment that could have helped was a liver transplant, but she was too ill to be taken to a specialist ward even if an organ had been available.
After she arrived in hospital, she suffered several heart attacks and her heart stopped at least four times as the toxins struck her vital organs.
Her husband survived because he ate less of the soup.
The Death Cap mushroom, common across Europe, grows up to six inches high. One ounce, or half a cap, is estimated to be enough to kill a person.
Ray Ellard, Director of Consumer Protection with the FSAI, said it can be extremely difficult for amateur mushroom hunters to identify the safe mushrooms growing in the wild.