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No easy answer to deadly mushroom soup

November 11, 2012|By Karin Klein
  • A mycological expert holds a death cap mushroom, a commonly found but poisonous mushroom in California
A mycological expert holds a death cap mushroom, a commonly found but poisonous… (Bob Pepping / Associated…)

At what point is well-meaning ignorance or carelessness illegal? That's a question for authorities in Loomis, where two elderly women died, and other people were sickened, at a residence for senior citizens where, according to the Sacramento Bee, the caregiver picked mushrooms in the backyard that were then prepared in a soup.

No foul play appears to have been intended, investigators have said. But that hardly concludes the matter for the families of those who died or ended up in the hospital, or for the caregiver (who herself was hospitalized).

The home otherwise appears to have a good record, and certainly training or regulations for elder care aren't going to cover the dangers of mycological foraging. There are people who train to be experts in this area and eat thousands of wild mushrooms with no bad effect; there also have been a few, rare cases where even such people have made a fatal mistake.

There's no truly satisfying ending to such a story, when an apparently well-meaning person who usually does a great job then does something fatally ignorant. Sometimes bad things just happen, and sometimes failure to know and practice certain cautions constitutes a grave disservice that should carry legal repercussions.

What are your thoughts on the Loomis case? Should authorities dismiss it as just one of those things? Should the caregiver lose her license? Or should stronger measures be taken?

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