Can Spinach Give People Food Poisoning?


2 Answers

Pippa Corbett Profile
Pippa Corbett answered
Yes, spinach can breed bacteria and, as a result, could potentially cause food poisoning. (This is despite vegetables like spinach being considered relatively low-risk in terms of hazards to food safety.)

Can spinach cause food poisoning?
Bacteria require three things to grow:

  • Water
  • The correct temperature
  • A food source
As long as these three requirements are met, then bacteria will continue to multiply, often to hazardous levels.

Certain types of food (for example fish and meat) are considered high risk foods because they provide exactly the kind of environment that bacteria need to survive.

As far as spinach goes, the main bacterial pathogen associated with the vegetable is E.Coli. This microscopic bacteria is particularly harmful to humans, and can survive on food if it's not washed and cooked properly.

In 2006, Californian-grown spinach was found to be behind an E.Coli epidemic that spread across the United States and ended up killing 3 people.

How do I know if I've got food poisoning from Spinach?
In general, the symptoms to look out for are:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Paleness
  • Dizziness
However, you may also be interested to know that spinach also contains something called histamine, which can provoke an allergic reaction in people who already create a high amount of the substance in their bodies naturally.
Kath Senior Profile
Kath Senior answered
Yes, it can, and in September 2006 it did so with tragic consequences. The USA suffered a nationwide outbreak of E coli food poisoning with the dangerous E. Coli 0157 strain, after people ate contaminated baby spinach. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that, on Tuesday September 26, the outbreak had expanded to 183 cases in 26 states and Canada.

Ninety-five people had been admitted to hospital. Twenty-nine developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious kidney complication.

Two older women and a two-year-old child died from this complication during the outbreak. However, contamination of raw vegetables by bacteria able to cause severe food poisoning is rare.

Most cases are linked to consumption of contaminated meat or fish products. Public health laboratories isolated E. Coli O157:H7 from bags of spinach bought all over the USA. Federal and Californian health officials traced the information from lot numbers on the spinach bags to Californian farms.

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