Two children from an Afghan family evacuated from Kabul to Poland have died after eating soup containing death cap mushrooms, which the family had unknowingly gathered in a Polish forest outside their quarantine centre.
A six-year-old boy had received an emergency liver transplant but doctors were unable to save him. His five-year-old brother was pronounced dead on Thursday at Poland’s main children’s hospital, where both were treated.
The boys’ 17-year-old sister was treated at the hospital and released, in good condition. Doctors said the dose of toxins was less damaging to an adult with larger body mass than to children.
Authorities are investigating whether negligence could have been a factor in the poisoning last week.
The family of two adults and four children allegedly cooked soup with the highly poisonous mushrooms they found in the forest around a centre where they were undergoing a mandatory quarantine. They entered the centre in Podkowa Lesna, a small town near Warsaw, on August 23.
Prosecutors are questioning the centre’s staff about the events last week as part of an investigation that could lead to possible criminal charges for negligence and unintentional exposing people to a serious threat of loss of health or life, Aleksandra Skrzyniarz, a spokesperson for the prosecutors’ office in Warsaw, said. The offence carries a maximum prison term of three years, she said.
Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said this week that the poisonings were a “tragedy, but did not result from any negligence at the centre. “
Authorities have rejected media speculation that food rations at the centre may have been insufficient.
Poland evacuated the family last month at Britain’s request after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The father had worked for the British military.
In a separate incident at a different centre near Warsaw, four Afghan men were hospitalised after eating poisonous mushrooms, according to the state Office for Foreigners.
There are about 1300 kinds of mushrooms in Poland, some 200 of which are poisonous. They are a popular dish, but very good knowledge of them is required to distinguish poisonous from edible ones.
In 2019, 27 people got mushroom poisoning in Poland, and 25 of them had to be hospitalised. No deaths were reported.
Doctors advise against feeding mushrooms to children, because of the risk of poisoning, and because they have little nutritious value.
Death cap mushrooms, among the most poisonous in the world, closely resemble Poland’s edible parasol mushrooms.
In Denmark in 2017, two children from a Congolese refugee family died and another nine family members were hospitalised after eating toxic mushrooms.