Dozens Suffer Hallucinations After Eating Spinach Products

Aussie authorities believe recalled spinach was contaminated by toxic weed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2022 12:06 PM CST
Aussie Officials: Please Don't Hunt for Spinach to Get High
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Lilechka75)

As far as we know, Popeye used to eat spinach for strength, not to enter a hallucinatory state. In Australia, however, more than 130 people in Australia got an inadvertent high after ingesting contaminated baby spinach, and now the nation's government is urging consumers not to try to achieve that food-borne high on purpose. Authorities have issued a recall for 13 spinach-based food items "due to potential contamination with unsafe plant material," according to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand agency. More than 130 people who ate these products—sold under four brands at stores such as Costco, Aldi, and Woolworths—have experienced symptoms, including hallucinations, delirium, and blurred vision, per the Guardian.

"I [felt] like my body was moving when it [was] not," says one woman who consumed spinach she bought at a Canberra Costco, per the Washington Post. She says her symptoms—which also included dizziness, trouble breathing, dry mouth, and blurred vision—kicked in about 10 to 15 minutes after she ate the spinach. Per a statement from Riviera Farms, one of the farms involved in the recall, the problematic spinach was grown on a farm in Victoria and "contaminated with a weed which can have health consequences if consumed." That toxic weed appears to have been grown alongside the spinach and then accidentally mixed in with the spinach packaged for sale.

Health officials in Victoria say the reported symptoms appear to resemble those experienced by people who ingest anticholinergic agents, found in such plants as nightshade, mandrake root, and jimson weed. Authorities are said to be testing the weed they think is responsible for the contamination. Although the newspaper notes it's still not clear which farm or farms the bad spinach came from, the FSANZ notes "it is likely there is one source of the contamination." The majority of those affected by the contamination are in New South Wales, where nearly 90 people have reported symptoms and more than 30 have sought medical attention, per a release.

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The development is spurring experts to warn individuals away from looking for the plant so they can have their own hallucinatory experiences. "People might be tempted to go out picking weeds thinking that they'll get some sort of high, [but] it's really important to remember ... there's a whole lot of really horrible health issues," Brett Summerell, chief scientist at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, tells the Guardian. The New York Times delves more into the science of how anticholinergic drugs can affect the human brain. (More strange stuff stories.)

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