This Cancer-Causing Substance Was Just Found in Spinach Sold Nationwide — Eat This Not That

Spinach is widely considered a superfood. It’s packed with folic acid, omega-3s, lutein, iron, and more. Thus, it is not surprising that health experts around the world praise the benefits of this dark green leafy vegetable. However, a recent examination of nearly 175 samples of spinach taken from several retailers revealed a danger that often lurks in this distinct star: the heavy metal cadmium.

A team from the nonprofit organization As You Sow uncovered the problem over a three-year testing period and just released their findings. Their experts tested spinach sold by major companies including Target, Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and others, and found cadmium to be present at dangerous levels in many spinach products.

While cadmium serves many useful purposes—from its role in batteries to stabilizing plastic to producing nuclear energy—it is also a known health hazard when ingested by humans and is listed as such in California’s Proposition 65. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazards Assessment (OEHHA) indicates ) suggests that cadmium can cause, among other things, “growth toxicity” (impedes the proper neurodevelopment of children), “male reproductive toxicity”, cancer, and other diseases as well.

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The OEHHA considers the “Maximum Tolerable Dose Level” for orally ingested cadmium to be only 4.1 mcg per day. However, according to the As You Sow report, spinach from several of the brands examined contained more than twice that amount in one serving. And the worst offenders had more than 25 times that number in a single serving — one sample yielded 107.1 micrograms of the heavy metal in the portion tested, a serving that might have been sold to the public had it not been obtained for testing.

As You Sow states that its mission is to “promote corporate environmental and social responsibility” with the goal of creating “a safe, just and sustainable world in which environmental protection and human rights are central to corporate decision-making.”

Now the group is pushing producers to find ways to reduce the cadmium content in spinach products and for brands to begin to clearly list the potential for the metal on product packaging. He stated in his report:

As a result of the test, As You Sow filed legal notices under the Toxic Enforcement Act with more than 20 companies, including major brands such as Del Monte, General Mills, Chiquita, Safeway, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods and Earthbound Farms, Bird’s Eye, and Organic Girl for failing to warn consumers that the spinach products they produce and/or sell may expose consumers to cadmium levels above MADL.”

It’s worth noting that cadmium is found in all types of spinach products, including standard, natural, and certified organic foods.

As much as you can do, she notes “you as a consumer can help make a difference by letting companies know you take this issue seriously. If your favorite brand of spinach is on our spinach tracker that shows cadmium-containing samples above MADL per Service, call, tweet, or ask the company to remove or reduce any cadmium in the spinach supply chain.”

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