Spinach contamination caused by leafy green ‘weed’ on Victorian farm as recall extended

A child admitted to hospital is among more than 120 people believed to have suffered symptoms after consuming spinach amid a widespread recall of fresh food items contaminated with a weed.

Authorities say the recalled spinach products, thought to be from a farm in Victoria, have caused delirium and hallucinations.

People are being urged to check and dump any recalled products that have been sold at Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and Costco. Food Standards Australia New Zealand is coordinating the recall of products.

Almost 90 people in New South Wales have so far reported symptoms after consuming baby spinach, with at least 33 people seeking medical attention.

A child who was admitted to hospital in Queensland on Saturday night before being released on Sunday was one of 26 possible cases in that state so far.

At least 11 Victorians have gone to emergency departments after consuming baby spinach.

Products recalled so far include:

Symptoms can be severe and include delirium or confusion, hallucinations, dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, flushed face, blurred vision, dry mouth and skin and a fever.

The Victorian grower at the centre of the recall, Riviera Farms, said testing was under way on weed plants “which can have health consequences if consumed”.

“As soon as we were advised of the possible weed contamination from one of our customers, we immediately advised them to remove our impacted spinach from their shelves, and contacted state health and federal food authorities,” a spokesperson said.

“Riviera Farms has been serving the Australian community for five generations, and our staff will work with the regulators to identify what happened, who was impacted, and how we can make sure nothing like this weed contamination can occur again.”

The grower said it had contacted its 20 baby spinach customers and the farm was working with regulators.

The chief executive of vegetable peak industry body Ausveg, Michael Coote, said the weed that ended up in the spinach products was a “leafy” green plant.

“It is another piece of plant matter from a weed that has been found on this particular farm that has made it through the harvest and packing process and then into products,” he said. “It’s not the spinach itself that is causing these health issues.”

NSW Health said people needed to check any products and dispose of those listed in the recall.

“The recalled products are not safe to consume and people who have purchased these recalled products should throw them out or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund,” a spokesperson said.

“NSW Health is working with the NSW Food Authority, as well as other jurisdictions, to investigate the issue further.”

Investigators from the food standards authority believe the spinach was contaminated with “unsafe plant material”.

A spokesperson said the authority had been “advised it is likely there is one source of the contamination and is working through the supply chain with relevant jurisdictions to ensure any other affected products are identified”.

The agency is working with state and territory health authorities to ensure people are aware of all recalls.

Anyone worried they may have been affected is being urged to seek medical attention.

Coote assured customers that most spinach products across Australia were still safe and he urged shoppers to keep buying them after a challenging year.

“It is important to remember that there are only a small number of products with recall notices, and our food safety and retail sector is removing affected products as soon as there is a concern for people’s health,” he said.

Coles was caught up in the recall on Saturday, issuing a warning for several own-brand spinach products with use-by dates between 17 and 22 December. They were available at stores in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

The supermarket giant released a list of items being recalled and reassured customers no other Coles pre-packed spinach or salad products had been affected.

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