Sixteen people in Beijing have fallen ill after eating potentially poisonous mushrooms at a branch of the Dayali Roast Duck restaurant on Tuesday, according to the Beijing Times.
One patient slipped into a coma for several hours and others suffered nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness, a spokesman for the Bo'ai Hospital confirmed.
Six patients who are seriously ill have been transferred to the 307 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army, said the spokesman.
All 16 diners had eaten dishes containing boletus, a type of fungus which is for the most part edible but does include some poisonous species.
While food poisoning has been confirmed as the cause of the sickness outbreak, doctors are still unsure whether or not it is down to fungus poisoning.
"If it were confirmed to be fungus poisoning, the situation would be much worse," the spokesman said.
"Fungus poisoning is different from other kinds of food poisoning in that the fungus toxin harms the human liver directly. Victims of fungus poisoning will go through a period of 'false recovery'. Patients will appear to have fully recovered but will suffer liver problems a few days later.
"Therefore, the patients must stay in hospital for another five to seven days for observation."
The Dayali restaurant has taken all its dishes containing boletus off the menu and has sealed up the remaining boletus ahead of investigations by local health authorities.
"We will inform customers of the results as soon as they are available," the restaurant manager surnamed Ma said.
The incident is the latest in a string of food scares to affect the capital in recent months. A total of 132 people fell ill after eating Amazonian snails in July, a carcinogenic dye was found in red-yolk duck eggs and turbot was found to have been given banned antibiotics.
(Xinhua News Agency December 29, 2006)