Cases of poisoning from porcini, a type of wild mushroom and popular culinary ingredient, are on the rise in the city, health officials said.
Data from the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) showed there were six cases of porcini poisoning from 2008 to 2014, rising to 12 cases in 2015, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
There have been seven cases so far this year, compared with nine for the whole of last year, the CHP said.
In the latest case, a family of three showed signs of food poisoning, such as vomiting and diarrhea, after consuming porcini on Feb. 18.
It was learned that the family obtained their supply of the mushroom from a Chinese medicine store in Sai Ying Pun last November.
After exhibiting signs of poisoning, the three members of the family were taken to Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam the following day. They are now in stable condition.
The CHP has collected samples from the store for testing, while the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said the shop owner claimed there was no stock left, Apple Daily reported.
Hospital Authority medical consultant Tse Man-li thinks the rising cases of porcini poisoning may spur the government to conduct closer monitoring of supplies and tighten sales of the mushroom.
Tse said in serious cases of porcini mushroom poisoning, patients experience hallucinations.
There have been cases in mainland China where the patients showed signs of insanity that required hospitalization.
He said samples of the mushroom CHP staff collected from the family in the latest case had strains that are considered inedible.
An examination of the samples under the microscope showed the presence of dead bodies of flies and other insects, indicating the bad quality of the mushrooms.
Tse said porcini poisoning may be hard to prevent as these “problematic mushrooms” are widely sold in supermarkets, department stores and even health product shops.
Some mushrooms are mixed with soil and other plants to increase the weight of their weight.
It is difficult to identify which are edible and which are not as they look alike, Tse said, adding that only an expert using a microscope can tell the difference.
The CHP urges citizens to buy porcini and other exotic types of mushroom from reputable shops and clean the mushrooms thoroughly before cooking them well.
Consumers should avoid eating porcini mushrooms that have acquired molds or are turning black.
Tse said the European Union has laws regulating mushroom sales, but Hong Kong does not even have guidelines for consumers and vendors.
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