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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Slaps Ban on Pickled And Dried Mushrooms

Concerned by a nationwide rash of poisonings, Moscow authorities have outlawed the sale of homemade pickled and dried mushrooms in the capital.

The ban, issued earlier this week by the Moscow health inspectorate, does not affect the sale of fresh mushrooms.

"When products are bought at a market, customers do not question their quality, which cannot be said for purchases from individuals [on the street]," the Moscow health inspectorate said in a statement sent to The Moscow Times.

However, people hawking mushrooms on city streets Friday did not appear fazed by the ban.

"Every time people are poisoned, the authorities try to show they're doing something about it," said Anatoly Pavlov, 68, as he offered fresh mushrooms to passers-by near Belorussky Station.

"I've been selling mushrooms for over 20 years," he said. "I know which ones are good and bad. That's the important thing."

Foraging for fungi is a national obsession during the May to September mushroom season. Some mushroom pickers f especially pensioners f sell their harvest in the city to supplement their incomes.

Part of the poisoning problem, health authorities said, is that mushroom hunters often become proud of their ability to distinguish edible and poisonous varieties f and therefore overconfident.

While cases of mushroom poisoning tend to pick up in July and August, the Moscow ban is tied to an especially sharp rise in fatalities this summer, health inspectors said. Seventy-three people have died of mushroom poisoning across the country since the beginning of May. Of those, five were children under the age of 15.

Some 610 people have suffered from mushroom poisoning since April, according to the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper. Most of the cases were reported in the Voronezh region, where 230 people were poisoned and 43 died.

No one has died yet from mushroom poisoning in Moscow, although three people died last year, according to the city health inspectorate.

"People die because they're not careful," vendor Pavlov said. "But everyone knows which mushrooms you can and can't pick. Don't pick any from the roadside. Go off into a forest to search."

The highly poisonous blednaya poganka is chiefly responsible for the rise in fatalities this year, said Sergei Khotymchenko, laboratory chiefat the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.

Also called the "death cap" f or amanita phalloides f it is considered one of the most dangerous mushrooms in the world and closely resembles the popular edible syroyezhki mushrooms from the Russula family.

The toxic fungus grows in abundance in regions south of Moscow like Voronezh, but is relatively rare around the capital, Khotymchenko said.

The Moscow health inspectorate said that people found violating the mushroom ban would be arrested and fined.

Police patrolling Savyolovsky market in central Moscow, however, said they were not aware of the ban. "If they're selling mushrooms here, they must have obtained a permit for it," said Sergei, a municipal police officer who refused to give his last name.

Sellers expressed skepticism that the ban would lead to fewer poisonings, saying safety depended on an individual's ability to distinguish between varieties.

"How can you ban selling mushrooms?" said Nadezhda Solovyeva, 53, as she hawked fresh mushrooms near a pedestrian underpass on Tverskaya Ulitsa. "They're nature itself."