Poisonous mushrooms: Macro features matter!

The BC Medical Journal is always informative and appealing, including its January/February issue with the interesting article, “The world’s most poisonous mushroom, Amanita phalloides, is growing in BC” (2019;61:20-24).

I am writing about the cover illustration. This eye-catching drawing of the death cap beside the title “The world’s most poisonous mushroom is growing in BC” successfully attracts readers’ attention to the seriousness of this poisoning. However, it may imply that all parts of the death cap are green with dark green dots on its cap, stem, and volva, which is not correct.

As a former medical and, recently, environmental toxicologist who used to work in areas where mushroom poisoning was endemic, and having published on this subject, I have noticed that the clinical findings as well as the appearance of poisonous mushrooms are sometimes misidentified among health and medical experts. Mushroom poisoning is rare in Canada; therefore, professionals are less familiar with the issue.

A picture is worth a thousand words! People may forget the text but are more likely to remember this illustration. What if health professionals or mushroom hunters perceive the “World’s most poisonous mushroom that grows in BC” to be green with dark green dots everywhere? More importantly, can this picture give the impression that mushrooms with other appearances, let’s say white ones or those that have no dots on their stem, are safe to consume? This beautiful illustration on the cover page may have unintentional educational consequences for your readers.

The take-home message is that macro features [Figure] of the death cap are important, may vary, and can even resemble edible mushrooms with potential to confuse amateur mushroom hunters or health professionals.
—Reza Afshari, MD, MPH, PhD
Senior Scientist, Toxicology, BC Centre for Disease Control
Adjunct Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
Professor of Medical Toxicology, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Iran
Editor in Chief, Asia Pacific Journal of Medical Toxicology

This letter was submitted in response to “The world’s most poisonous mushroomAmanita phalloides, is growing in BC.”

Thank you for your helpful letter. We would also direct readers’ attention to the photos on pages 21 and 22 of the January/February issue.

Reza Afshari, MD, MPH, PhD. Poisonous mushrooms: Macro features matter!. BCMJ, Vol. 61, No. 6, July, August, 2019, Page(s) 237-238 - Letters.

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