German Doctors Worry About Refugees Foraging Deadly Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms are not safe if you don’t know which ones are poisonous
Death cap mushroom

Wikimedia/Stu’s Images

A number of Syrian refugees have reportedly mistaken the extremely poisonous death cap mushroom for something edible. 

Doctors in Germany have noticed a surprising jump in the number of mushroom poisonings that have happened recently as refugees from Syria enter the country, and it has created a problem because apparently a popular, edible, and frequently foraged mushroom in Syria looks just like a wild mushroom in Germany that is extremely poisonous.

According to The Local, doctors say that some refugees in Germany have taken to foraging for mushrooms. Foraging can be pretty safe if a person knows what sort of mushrooms he or she is looking for, but in this case it is turning out to be quite dangerous because it is very easy to mistake a very dangerous wild mushroom in Europe that is so poisonous it is named the “death cap mushroom” for similar looking and perfectly safe mushrooms that grow in Syria.

Every year in Germany doctors say they treat maybe a few dozen people who accidentally eat poisonous mushrooms, and most of those poisonings are from people eating the death cap mushroom specifically. But this year doctors say the numbers of people showing up with the symptoms of mushroom poisoning have jumped dramatically, and most of the patients are reportedly Syrian refugees.

"Most of the patients are refugees from Syria. There seems to be a mushroom there that they are mistaking the death caps for," said Dr. Andrea Schneider of the Medical School in Hanover. One night this month Schneider says 17 people showed up having eaten the death cap mushroom, which can easily be fatal. At least two people have died so far this year from eating the death cap mushrooms, and one of the victims was a 16-year-old boy who had recently escaped to Germany from Syria.


The Medical School in Hanover has printed fliers in six different languages warning people to stay away from death cap mushrooms and pleading with people to check with local experts before attempting to eat any foraged mushrooms.