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Reese Witherspoon sparks heated debate: Is it OK to eat snow? Experts weigh in

Reese Witherspoon sparks heated debate: Is it OK to eat snow? Experts weigh in

Brrrrrr-liant or hare-brrrrrrained?

Reese Witherspoon is sparking a heated debate about whether it’s safe to eat snow after sharing a video of herself making a “Snow Salt Chococinno” on Friday.

“Oh my gosh, it’s so good,” she gushed on TikTok after adding salted caramel sauce, chocolate syrup, and cold-brewed coffee to the snow she had scooped off her covered grill.

The deluge of concerned comments prompted Witherspoon, 47, to make not one, but three, follow-up TikToks to address worries. In the first, she microwaved the snow to produce clear water in an attempt to combat the “dirty” snow rumors.

“So, we’re kind of in the category of, ‘you only live once,’ and it snows maybe once a year here,” Witherspoon explained in the second follow-up clip. “I don’t know. Also, I want to say something — it was delicious.”

Reese Witherspoon is sparking a heated debate about whether it’s OK to eat snow after sharing a video of herself making a “Snow Salt Chococinno” on Friday. reesewitherspoon/TikTok
Reese Witherspoon is sparking a heated debate about whether it’s OK to eat snow after sharing a video of herself making a “Snow Salt Chococinno” on Friday. reesewitherspoon/TikTok

The Oscar winner also admitted that she didn’t drink filtered water as a kid growing up in the South and doesn’t know “how to filter the snow.”

Witherspoon’s series on the pros and cons of eating snow comes as snowfall recipes are flooding social media, with 183,900 TikTok views logged for #snowtreats, from ice cream to maple taffy.

For their part, scientists have long chewed over the age-old question: Is it safe to eat snow?

“Oh my gosh, it’s so good,” she gushed on TikTok after adding salted caramel sauce, chocolate syrup, and cold-brewed coffee to the snow she had scooped off her covered grill. reesewitherspoon/TikTok
“Oh my gosh, it’s so good,” she gushed on TikTok after adding salted caramel sauce, chocolate syrup, and cold-brewed coffee to the snow she had scooped off her covered grill. reesewitherspoon/TikTok

A study published in 2016 found that snow in urban areas can absorb the same toxic substances that come from car exhaust.

“Snow flakes are ice particles with various types of surfaces, including several active sites, that can absorb various gaseous or particulate pollutants,” study author Dr. Parisa Ariya told HuffPost at the time.

“As a mother who is an atmospheric physical chemist, I definitely do not suggest my young kids to eat snow in urban areas in general,” she said before adding, “I do not wish to be alarmist.”

In 2017, Romanian researchers determined that very fresh snow has very little bacteria, so it’s best to dig in before it’s 2 days old — and limit your intake.

“I am not recommending anyone eats snow. Just saying you won’t get ill if you eat a bit,” study author Istvan Mathe told The Associated Press then.

The deluge of comments prompted Witherspoon, 47, to make not one, but three, follow-up TikToks to address concerns. reesewitherspoon/TikTok
The deluge of comments prompted Witherspoon, 47, to make not one, but three, follow-up TikToks to address concerns. reesewitherspoon/TikTok
In the first, she microwaved the snow to produce clear water in an attempt to combat the “dirty” snow rumors. reesewitherspoon/TikTok
In the first, she microwaved the snow to produce clear water in an attempt to combat the “dirty” snow rumors. reesewitherspoon/TikTok

For those who do indulge, experts recommend avoiding yellow snow and snow that’s been plowed because it could contain sand and chemicals.

Environmental scientist Staci Simonich, who found significant pesticide levels in high-elevation snow in some US national parks as part of her research, told NPR in 2016 that she “would not hesitate for my children to have the joy of eating a handful of fresh fallen snow from my backyard.”

She explained: “The pesticide concentrations are low and the amount of snow eaten in a handful is small, so the one-time dose is very low and not a risk to health.”

“So, we’re kind of in the category of, ‘you only live once,’ and it snows maybe once a year here,” Witherspoon explained in the second follow-up clip. “I don’t know. Also, I want to say something, it was delicious.” reesewitherspoon/TikTok
“So, we’re kind of in the category of, ‘you only live once,’ and it snows maybe once a year here,” Witherspoon explained in the second follow-up clip. “I don’t know. Also, I want to say something, it was delicious.” reesewitherspoon/TikTok

Madelyn Fernstrom, NBC News’ health and nutrition editor, says it’s OK to consume snow as long it’s “freshly fallen.”

“Can you guarantee any snow will be contaminant free?” she mused in 2021. “No, but the levels will be so tiny, some research shows that it doesn’t exceed any of the levels for anything else that you find anything in the atmosphere. And so that’s a good thing.”