Aussies have been urged to keep spinach on their Christmas shopping lists after 13 contaminated products were successfully recalled, causing “scary” hallucinations.
More than 190 people across almost every state and territory in Australia fell ill over the past week with a range of symptoms including dry mouth, blurred vision, delirium and hallucinations.
Several people were hospitalized – including a Queensland child – but most people recovered quickly.
Authorities quickly traced the source of the contamination to a single field of spinach grown by Riviera Fresh in east Victoria and issued a product recall.
“The products may be contaminated with unsafe plant material that may cause disease,” Food Standards Australia New Zealand said in a statement.
“Anyone who believes they have consumed the product and is concerned is advised to seek medical advice.”
The products were previously on the shelves at Aldi, Costco, Coles and Woolworths.
This week said Dr. Sandra Cuthbert, chief executive of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, said “all affected products” had been identified and recalled.
“I wish those who have fallen ill a speedy recovery,” she said.
“Consumers can remain confident that Australia has a safe and nutritious food supply.”
While investigations are ongoing, it’s likely the spinach may have been contaminated by a toxic weed, such as nightshade, Jimson weed or mandrake root, that has grown after the recent floods.
The Food Watchdog confirmed laboratory analysis of samples of the weed is ongoing and recalls have been carried out across Victoria, NSW, ACT, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
The Medical Director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, Dr. Darren Roberts said symptom intensity relates to how much a person has consumed.
“The main symptoms people get first and foremost are dry mouth and sometimes blurred vision,” he told ABC Radio National.
“But with larger amounts, and this can progress, they can get delirious or confused.
“They can have hallucinations when they see things, hear things, scary things.”
Victoria’s Acting Deputy Environment Officer, Dr. Danny Csutoros said the people poisoned by the contamination had shown “unusual symptoms”.
The department reported that the symptoms suggested people were suffering from anticholinergic syndrome — a type of intoxication that inhibits 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 is “sad” about the contamination but is working proactively to resolve the issue.
Australia’s umbrella organization for vegetable growers, AUSVEG, said in a statement consumers can rest assured that all spinach and leafy greens products in the supermarket are unaffected.
“Make sure you discard any product affected by the recall, but don’t remove leafy greens from the menu this Christmas,” the group said.
Originally published as Spinach Contamination Recall deemed successful