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Japanese pref. warns of toxic lily resembling edible taro after poisoning cases reported

A night-scented lily plant which was collected by a public health center after a woman reported food poisoning symptoms is shown in this photo provided by the Kumamoto Prefectural Government.
Taro crops are shown in this photo provided by the Kumamoto Prefectural Government.

KUMAMOTO -- The Kumamoto Prefectural Government is warning people to be on their guard following cases of food poisoning caused by people mistaking toxic night-scented lilies for edible taro plants.

    A woman in southwestern Japan suffered symptoms of food poisoning, including acute pain in her mouth, after mistakenly eating night-scented lily, the prefectural government announced on Nov. 26.

    There have been repeated cases across Japan where people accidentally consume the plants, as the leaves resemble those of edible taros. Officials are calling on people to "avoid eating taros of an unknown type."

    According to the prefecture, the 43-year-old woman and her family, who live in an area under the jurisdiction of the Mifune public health center in Kumamoto Prefecture, consumed a wild night-scented lily plant that had been growing at the side of an agricultural road near their residence, after mistaking it for edible shrimp-shaped taro. The woman felt a sharp pain in her mouth, as well as numbness in her lips and tongue, shortly after tasting the plant, which she used as an ingredient for miso soup, and was taken to hospital in an ambulance. Although the woman has been recovering, her symptoms apparently still remain. The woman said she had no experience cooking shrimp-shaped taro, and felt itchiness in her hand from the time she started cutting the plant.

    Night-scented lilies are perennial herbs belonging to the Araceae family, which are found in the southern areas of the Shikoku and Kyushu regions. The toxic plant grows to a height of over one meter, has large, lush leaves, and is popular for decorative purposes.

    In a separate case, eight people suffered food poisoning after eating night-scented lilies that were mistakenly sold at a produce stand in Miyazaki Prefecture in October. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has cautioned people to "avoid picking, eating, selling, or giving to others plants that cannot be ascertained as being edible."

    (Japanese original by Kohei Shimizu, Kumamoto Bureau)

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