Cooking Does Not Eliminate Toxins; Some Residents In New Jersey Are Learning The Hard Way -- With Hospital Emergency Room Visits

WAYNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The recent rain is creating mushroom mania in in the Garden State, and it’s not a good thing. Doctors say a record number of people are eating toxic ones and getting poisoned.

Biologist Ken Martin showed CBS2’s Lisa Rozner on Thursday all kinds of mushrooms suddenly sprouting up on the campus of William Paterson University.

“This is, you can see, it’s got gills on the bottom. It’s like your button mushroom from the grocery store,” Martin said.

Many look like the ones from the grocery store, but not all mushrooms are created equal. The New Jersey Poison Control Center says in the last month more than 40 people in the state have learned the hard way — in the hospital emergency room.

“The toxic Amanita, a mushroom which is what causes liver failure and grows in this area, doesn’t make you sick for the first six-to-eight hours or so and then you get stomach upset and vomiting,” the center’s Dr. Diane Calello said.

Other mushrooms will cause an upset stomach within the first hour of eating, and while it is rare, Calello said, “There are mushrooms in New Jersey that can kill you.”

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Experts say both edible and toxic mushrooms come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors, and no matter what cooking will not destroy the toxins.

So how do you identify a poisonous mushroom?

Calello said you don’t try. Even she, a toxicologist with 15 years experience, needs to turn to a mushroom expert, also known as a mycologist.

Local residents said they are steering clear of mushrooms in the wild.

When asked if he ever tried to pick a mushroom and eat it, Nutley resident Eugene Klyushnichenko said, “Yeah, back in Ukraine. But not these. These are poisonous. No good.”

“They’ve been growing along trees a lot,” added 10-year-old Daniela Gagliardo.

“Too risky. I’d rather buy them in the store,” Nutley’s George Gagliardo said.

And that’s the only place you should get them.

The good news is you don’t have to pluck the mushrooms. Doctors say touching them won’t hurt you.