Dozens of people in Australia have suffered from hallucinations, confusion, and delirium after eating baby spinach that appears to have been contaminated. At least 47 people in New South Wales (NSW) have reported symptoms after eating spinach and at least 17 of these have needed medical attention, according to an announcement from NSW Health.
Along with confusion and hallucinations, people have also experienced dilated pupils, a racing heart, flushed face, blurred vision, dry mouth, and fever.
The affected product is baby spinach produced by Riviera Farms and sold at the supermarket Costco in 350 grams and 1-kilogram containers, specifically those with a use-by date up to and including December 28, 2022. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has advised consumers not to eat any of these products and chuck the spinach in the bin immediately.
"The patients that have been quite unwell have been to the point of marked hallucinations where they are seeing things that aren't there. They can't give a good recount of what happened,” said Dr Darren Roberts, NSW Poisons Information Centre medical director, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
"No one has died, so we're very happy with that and we hope it remains that way, but these people are quite sick."
Health authorities are yet to comment on what exactly is causing this strange and unpleasant mix of symptoms, but Riviera Farms has suggested the spinach may have been contaminated with a weed of some kind.
“It appears these products, which were grown on a farm in Victoria and shipped to stores in NSW, have been contaminated with a weed which can have health consequences if consumed,” the company said on its website. “Samples have been sent to laboratories for testing.”
As strange as it may sound, there are a number of relatively common garden weeds that can have the potential to cause hallucinations. One of these is Datura stramonium – also known as thorn apple, jimsonweed, devil's snare, or devil's trumpet – an aggressive invasive weed that likely originated in the Americas but has since taken root in many parts of the world.
People who consume this plant can experience hallucinations, euphoria, and strange behavior. They can easily take too much, however, resulting in comas and even death.