Farmers plead with Aussies to keep spinach on the menu this Christmas after rogue batches caused ‘scary hallucinations’ for 200 people sparking urgent safety recall
- Thirteen varieties of Australian spinach caused hallucinations this week
- Contamination tracked to a Riviera Fresh field of the crop in eastern Victoria
- Food Standards Australia says bad batches recalled and spinach is now safe
Aussies have been urged to keep spinach on their Christmas grocery shopping lists following a successful recall of 13 contaminated products which caused ‘scary’ hallucinations.
More than 190 people across almost all states and territories of Australia fell sick over the past week, experiencing a range of symptoms including dry mouth, blurred vision, delirium and hallucinations.
Several people were hospitalised – including a Queensland child – but most people recovered quickly.
Aussies have been urged to keep spinach on their Christmas grocery shopping lists following a successful recall of 13 contaminated products which caused ‘scary’ hallucinations
More than 130 consumers reported symptoms including hallucinations and rapid heartbeats. (Pictured, stock image of a packet of spinach)
Authorities rapidly tracked the source of the contamination to a single field of spinach grown by Riviera Fresh in eastern Victoria and issued a product recall.
‘The products have had potential contamination with unsafe plant material which may cause illness,’ Food Standards Australia New Zealand said in a statement.
‘Anyone who believes they have consumed the product and are concerned, are advised to seek medical advice.’
The products were previously on the shelves at Aldi, Costco, Coles and Woolworths.
This week, Food Standards Australia New Zealand chief executive Dr Sandra Cuthbert said ‘all affected products’ had been identified and recalled.
‘I wish those who have become unwell a speedy recovery,’ she said.
‘Consumers can continue to trust that Australia has a safe and nutritious food supply.’
While investigations are ongoing, it’s likely the spinach became contaminated by a toxic weed, such as a nightshade, jimson weed or mandrake root, growing after recent floods.
The food watchdog confirmed lab analysis of samples of the weed was ongoing and recalls had completed across Victoria, NSW, the ACT, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
NSW Poisons Information Centre medical director Dr Darren Roberts said the symptom intensity related to how much a person had consumed.
Coles joined Woolworths, CostCo, Aldi and Riviera Farms in recalling potentially contaminated spinach products
‘The main symptoms that people get first of all is a dried mouth and sometimes blurred vision,’ he told ABC Radio National.
‘But with larger amounts, and this can progress, they can get delirium or confusion.
‘They can get hallucinations where they’re seeing things, hearing things, scary things.’
Victoria’s acting deputy chief health officer for the environment, Dr Danny Csutoros, said people poisoned by the contamination had shown ‘unusual symptoms’.
The Department reported that symptoms suggested people were suffering from anticholinergic syndrome – a type of poisoning which inhibits the production of a brain chemical linked to memory, thinking and the visual system.
Symptoms associated with the syndrome include restlessness, visual and tactile hallucinations, slurred speech and confusion.
A spokesman for Riviera Farms said the company was ‘saddened’ by the contamination, but was working proactively to resolve the issue.
Australia’s peak body for vegetable growers, AUSVEG, said in a statement consumers can be confident all spinach and leafy vegetable products at the supermarket are unaffected.
‘Be sure to dispose of all products that are included in the recall, but don’t take leafy greens off the menu this Christmas,’ the group said.