MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Wild mushrooms consumed in Europe contain too much nicotine and may raise blood pressure and heart rate, Europe's major food risk assessment agency said on Monday.
The European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, has established as safe a concentration of nicotine in fresh mushrooms at 0.036 mg per kg, which was well below the levels it has found in samples from the 2008 crop, EFSA said in a statement.
EFSA was asked by the European Commission to analyze the risks of eating wild mushrooms and said further monitoring was needed to set precise safe levels.
"Any effects of eating contaminated wild mushrooms are likely to be mild and would be short term, possibly including increased heart rate, dizziness and headaches," EFSA said.
High nicotine concentrations were found in wild mushrooms -- mainly porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis), but also truffles and chanterelles -- of various origins, although most of them came from China, it said.
It was unclear what caused the presence of nicotine in these mushrooms: it could be pesticide use or some other factors such as accidental contamination during the drying process, it said.
In European countries, the use of plant protection products containing nicotine as an insecticide will be phased out by the latest in June 2010, but its use in other countries may continue and may lead to residues of nicotine in food, the agency said.
The highest consumption of wild mushrooms, especially of Boletus edulis, was reported in Italy, the Parma-based agency said.
Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova, editing by Paul Casciato