Woolworths, Aldi pull products from shelves causing hallucinations, sickness

Dozens of Australians have fallen sick after eating contaminated spinach sold at Costco – with both Woolworths and Aldi now recalling their own products for the same reason.

The Riviera Farm baby spinach leaves were recalled due to “unsafe plant material” which could “cause illness” – including hallucinations and delirium – if consumed.

For shoppers at Costco, the 350g and 1kg bags of spinach were affected with use by dates spanning from December 16 to December 28 included in the recall.

Two woman stand in front of the salad aisle at Woolworths.
Woolworths has recalled two salad products over contamination fears. Source: Getty/File

Woolworths has now issued warnings over more salad products, asking anyone in NSW, ACT, Queensland or Victoria who purchased the 270g Cobb salad (use by December 20) or the 290g chickpea falafel salad (use by December 20 and 22) to dispose of the products or return them to the store.

Aldi posted a recall notice for customers in Victoria only. The affected item is the Fresh and Fast Stir Fry with a use by date of December 24.

Both supermarket giants say eating the products could cause illness.

recall notices from Aldi and Woolworths showing the affected products.
Both Woolworths and Aldi have recalled salad products. Source: Food Standards Australia and NZ

‘My body is numb’: Almost 50 fall ill

NSW Health confirmed 47 people had so far reported symptoms after consuming the baby spinach products, with at least 17 of those requiring medical attention.

Genevieve Adamo from the NSW Poisons information Centre told Today it’s expected the numbers will rise.

“It can be quite serious and we've had a number of people who are quite unwell,” she said. “There are many people who are getting mild symptoms such as flushing, or dry mouth, some dizziness and feeling unwell but there are people who are getting more serious symptoms such as an increased heart rate or fever, the hallucinations and confusion, and even delirium.”

Pratima Kafle speaks to Channel 9
Pratima Kafle said her body feels numb after eating the contaminated product. Source: Channel 9

The contamination that is making consumers ill is not a spray or a pesticide but a weed.

“It is a small leaf that looks quite similar to the spinach but it contains other compounds making people quite sick,” Ms Adamo said. “It is not something that can be sprayed on and washed off. It is a plant matter within the spinach and therefore all the batches need to be discarded.”

Sydney resident Pratima Kafle is one of the victims of the toxic spinach and described her symptoms to Today.

“I feel like my whole body is numb and I can't stand properly,” she said.

Other symptoms include:

  • Delirium or confusion

  • Hallucinations

  • Dilated pupils

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Flushed face

  • Blurred vision

  • Dry mouth and skin

  • Fever

Anyone who is concerned about exposure to the spinach should call the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26. NSW Health urges anyone who experiences any unusual and severe symptoms to seek immediate medical attention by visiting their nearest emergency department. In the event of an emergency, call Triple 0.

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