Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kids Sick from Poisonous Mushrooms - The Potential Perils of Community Gardens

Seventeen school-aged children became sick after eating poisonous mushrooms.  According to the report, "...a volunteer thought the mushroom - later identified as green-spored parasol, a common poisonous wild mushroom - was an edible part of the garden. Seventeen students ate it and suffered various symptoms. Several of the students had severe reactions."

Community gardens are great for learning, but it is important to remember that the food safety basics still apply.    And for those that put the effort into planning, growing, and harvesting, effort has to go into training.   While this incident with poisonous mushrooms is probably a worst case scenario (having a truly uninformed volunteer give kids poisonous mushrooms), there are still other areas that need attention, including all the components of GAPs - good agricultural practices to include fertilizing properly, washing hands, washing produce before consumption, using potable water for watering, and cleaning food contact surfaces.  It is too easy to see where people get stupid ideas - fertilizing food with fresh manure (manure needs to be properly composted), watering crops from a pond or a unclean rain bucket (where that water is harboring harmful bacteria), etc.   It must be remembered that many of those visiting or consuming from these gardens are children.  Pre-school aged children, considered 'high risk', are of most concern because their immune systems are still under development.

Unlike a person's home garden, these foods go to a broad group of people, often outside of those people who were involved in growing and harvesting. It is the responsibility of those involved in growing and harvesting to follow practices that will minimize risk.

The Packer
L.A. school district issues safety alert on wild mushrooms after students fall ill
By Ashley Nickle September 26, 2016 | 4:55 pm EDT

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety is investigating after several elementary school students became ill after eating mushrooms from a community garden, according to the district.

While the district has not said whether the students ate wild mushrooms or ones that had been grown for consumption, the district issued a safety alert Sept. 26 to its schools that cautioned against students and staff eating wild mushrooms.

“Mushrooms often pop up in gardens, planters and lawns and are widely prevalent in the environment,” the notice said. “Wild mushrooms found on district campuses should be immediately removed and disposed in the trash.

“Additional ways to prevent mushroom poisoning away from our campuses include educating people to avoid eating wild mushrooms and closely supervising small children in areas where mushrooms are present,” the notice said.

The safety alert instructed recipients to review the information with students and staff members during classes, assemblies or professional development trainings.

The “small number” of students who became sick attend Micheltorena Street Elementary School.

A statement from district superintendent Michelle King referred only to vegetables as the suspected source of the illnesses, but the district confirmed that the students were believed to have eaten mushrooms from the community garden.

The garden has been closed pending investigation by the district’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety. Other district gardens will also be inspected for potential hazards, according to King’s statement.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Acute Communicable Disease Control Division is also investigating, having received notification of possible foodborne illness, a department spokesperson said in an e-mail.

King said in the released statement that updates on the situation will be provided.

“Our thoughts are with these children and their families as we await more information on their condition,” King said in the release. “The district has closed the garden and our Office of Environmental Health and Safety team is investigating this issue and will provide updates as they become available ... We wish the affected children a speedy recovery and remain dedicated to the safety and well-being of all of our students.”

ABC 7 News Report
LAUSD meets with parents after students sickened by poisonous mushrooms
By Brandi Hitt
Tuesday, September 27, 2016 05:30PM
Tuesday, September 27, 2016 05:30PM
SILVER LAKE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Parents at Micheltorena Elementary School in Silver Lake met with school officials behind closed doors after students ate poisonous mushrooms last week while classes were making their regular trip to the community garden.

"Physically, mentally, it's been devastating. I'm just thinking of what could have happened," Ted Acosta, whose 10-year-old son Chris Acosta was one of the students hospitalized.

"I couldn't walk," Chris Acosta, a 5th grader at Micheltorena Elementary School, recalled. "I was just tired and everything from vomiting."

School officials told parents that a volunteer thought the mushroom - later identified as green-spored parasol, a common poisonous wild mushroom - was an edible part of the garden.

Seventeen students ate it and suffered various symptoms. Several of the students had severe reactions.

LAUSD wouldn't comment on camera about Tuesday's meeting with parents, but did issue a safety alert district wide as their investigation continues.

About 50 parents attended the meeting where officials said all the students affected were doing better.

"I want to make absolutely sure that this garden is not going away and the good news is in that meeting is there was the consensus that they wanted to keep the garden here. And now we're going to learn from it," parent Scott Hamilton Kennedy said.

Ted Acosta and his son said they understood the incident wasn't intentional and wanted the volunteer to know that he had their support.

They also said they wanted the garden to remain open, but with changes so something like this never happens again.

"The persons who will be working in the garden, they've got to have better training," Ted Acosta said.

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