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By Ruth Comerford
BBC News

Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon has whipped up a storm – after scooping snow to make a coffee-caramel drink.

The Legally Blonde star, 47, shared her icy recipe with followers on TikTok, prompting a cool response from many people apparently disturbed by the idea of eating fresh snow.

In a TikTok video now viewed 4.8m times, Witherspoon creates a “Snow Salt Chococinno” using snow gathered outside her house, together with cold brew coffee, and lashings of salted caramel and chocolate sauce.

“OK, so we got a tonne of snow over the past few days so we decided to make a recipe,” she says. “It is so good!”

But the idea went on to prompt a backlash so fierce the star used a further three videos to address a number of concerned comments from her followers.

“There are so many people on here saying that snow is dirty,” she says. “So we went and took snow from the backyard and microwaved it and it’s clear – is this bad? Am I not supposed to eat snow?”

So what is the answer?

Scientists have suggested the first snowfall is not the safest to taste.

After a water droplet freezes and forms a snow flake, it can soak up pollutants from the air as it descends.

The whitest layer the furthest away from the ground is regarded as safer to consume.

Staci Simonich, professor of environmental and toxic ecology at Oregon State University, told the BBC that snow is safe to eat as long as it is from “a non-urban area” and that people wait “until the first few centimetres fallen”.

“The first bit of snow scrubs pollutants from the atmosphere,” she said, adding that is it best to “eat a small amount” from an “area where no people or animals have walked”.

In an interview with NPR in 2022, Jeff Gaffney, a professor of chemistry at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, said snow is “primarily water” but – depending on where it falls – can contain substances like “sulphates, nitrates, formaldehyde or mercury”.

Yet for all those earnestly questioning the safety of eating snow, there appeared to be equal numbers ridiculing the whole debate.

One TikTok user wrote that “my Canadian self is laughing at the comment… we’ve been eating snow since we could crawl”.

Another said: “My entire family grew up making snow ice cream multiple times every winter. 13 of us never once got sick from it.”

And responding to Witherspoon’s post, Dr Zachary Rubin – a paediatric allergist based in Illinois – said simply: “This is not a big deal.”

“Doc says it’s fine,” Witherspoon replied.

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14 March 2018