Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen confirmed on Monday that she unwittingly ate a dish containing hallucinogenic mushrooms at a restaurant during a visit to China last month.
“So I went with this large group of people and the person who had arranged our dinner did the ordering. There was a delicious mushroom dish,” she said on Monday. “I was not aware that these mushrooms had hallucinogenic properties. I learned that later.”
“I … read that if the mushrooms are cooked properly, which I’m sure they were, at this very good restaurant, that they have no impact,” she added. “But all of us enjoyed the mushrooms, the restaurant and none of us felt any ill effects from having eaten them.”
During the Treasury official’s visit to China last month, she and her team stopped at a location of Yi Zuo Yi Wang, a restaurant chain specialising in dishes from the Yunnan province, where a food blogger on Weibo spotted the top official eating a variety of Chinese dishes.
“When I walked by their table on my way to the washroom, I slowed down to take a glance at the dishes they ordered,” the blogger wrote.
That included an order of potentially hallucinogenic jian shou qing mushrooms, a delicacy in Yunnan province.
“Our staff said she loved mushrooms very much,” the restaurant wrote on social media. “She ordered four portions of jian shou qing (a Yunnan wild mushroom species). It was an extremely magical day.”
The mushrooms are “considered poisonous as they can be hallucinogenic,” Dr Peter Mortimer, a professor at Kunming Institute of Botany who studies the region’s mushrooms, told CNN.
“However, scientists have not, as of yet, identified the compounds responsible for causing the hallucinations,”he added. “It remains a bit of a mystery, and most evidence is anecdotal. I have a friend who mistakenly ate them and hallucinated for three days.”
Chinese state media quoted diners praising Ms Yellen for her interest in Chinese cuisine and warning about the impacts of the mushrooms.
“You thought you were walking straight but you just fell sideways,” one person who had eaten a similar dish told the Xinhua state news agency.
The restaurant where the secretary ate was quickly flooded with reservations.
"We received a larger number of inquiries about bookings. We are fully booked for Friday and Saturday," a staff member told the state-owned Global Times.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies