Poisonous plants and inedible mushrooms!

Stomach cramp, nausea, vomiting, headaches. On 31 May 2005, 11 pupils with poisoning symptoms from a Berlin school were taken to hospital. The suspicion that they had eaten seeds or fruit from the poisonous laburnum, a popular decorative shrub in German gardens, was not confirmed. The pupils had “only” eaten too many pods from the comparatively harmless pea tree. This case demonstrates the major importance of reliable information on the potential risks related to poisonous plants. The clear determination of the source of poisoning and the correct classification of the risk may be vital. It is exactly this information that is contained in the two updated brochures on poisonous plants and mushrooms published by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

BfR has completely revised the two popular leaflets for consumers. They both contain a short description, with colour pictures, of the possible hazards linked to individual plants or mushrooms. Furthermore, each one gives an overview of the possible health risks and concrete recommendations on the action to be taken in the event of poisoning. The main recommendation is that if there is a suspected case of poisoning, the nearest poison control centre should be contacted as quickly as possible or a doctor consulted in order to decide on the best course of action.

The leaflet “Risks from Plants – Assessment and Information” provides answers to a range of questions on potential risks from plants in the house and garden where caution should be exercised because of their toxicity. Using the pictures and information contained in this leaflet, consumers can check their own environment for these risk sources and prevent any poisoning by plants.

The leaflet “Risks from Mushrooms” reflects the latest experiences of poison control centres from all over Germany. There are some mushrooms which have been described as edible in older literature but which have since proved to be or at least suspected of being toxic. In the case of others, intolerances have been reported. The pictures and texts in the updated leaflet help collectors, doctors and teachers to more easily recognise the mushrooms in forests, meadows and parks which are edible and to take the right steps when, despite all caution, a case of poisoning occurs.

The two leaflets with colour pictures “Risks from Plants” (45 pages) and “Risks from Mushrooms” (65 pages) can be ordered from the BfR Press and Public Relations Office. They are only available in German. The address is: Thielallee 88-92, 14195 Berlin and the e-mail address is: r.golsch@bfr.bund.de. For each leaflet a contribution towards costs of EUR 5 is charged; this includes postage. An invoice is enclosed. For larger quantities the price is reduced. Details can be found on the BfR homepage (www.bfr.bund.de) under Publikationen/Broschüren und Faltblätter.


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