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Nation & World

2 Calif. deaths from mushrooms despite warnings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The deaths of two residents of a Northern California assisted living facility and the hospitalization of four others come despite warnings from health officials not to eat mushrooms picked in the wild.

As far back as October 2009, the California Department of Public Health issued a statement warning that eating wild mushrooms can cause serious illness or death.

According to state data, there were more than 1,700 reported cases of mushroom ingestion in California in 2009 and 2010. They included 10 cases of serious poisoning and two deaths, including an 82-year-old Santa Barbara man who died after cooking wild mushrooms with his steak and a Lodi woman who died after eating mushrooms she had picked in a local park.

In the most recent incident, Placer County sheriff's officials said Barbara Lopes, 86, and Teresa Olesniewicz, 73, died after eating soup that had been prepared by a caregiver at the Gold Age Villa in Loomis.

The caregiver who prepared the soup was among the six people sickened, Sheriff's Lt. Mark Reed said Saturday.

Deputies determined the deaths were an accident after they were called to the Gold Age Villa in Loomis on Friday, Reed said.

The caregiver "just didn't know" the mushrooms were poisonous, Reed told the Sacramento Bee.

The conditions of the four hospitalized were not known Sunday. Placer County officials referred questions about the incident to the California Department of Social Services, the agency that licenses senior care facilities.

Michael Weston, an official with the agency, said on Saturday the incident was under investigation, but released no additional details Sunday.

Department records show Gold Age Villa was licensed as a residential care facility for the elderly in March 2007, with a capacity of six residents, ages 60 and older.

Prior to this incident the last inspection of the facility was conducted on March 12, 2012, where it was cited for an excessive hot water temperature of 130 degrees. The deficiency was corrected and cleared, Weston said.

Repeated calls to Gold Age Villa by The Associated Press on Sunday were not returned.

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