German E.coli outbreak a mystery

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 1st June 2011

escherichia ColiGermany’s national disease centre confirmed yesterday that it does not know the source of a E.coli outbreak that has lead to a number of deaths across Europe.It was initially thought that the contamination came from cucumbers that had been imported from Spain.

Until yesterday, the European Commission suspected that the outbreak was due to fresh cucumbers that had come from Almeria and Malaga. There has also been a third suspect batch originating in either the Netherlands or Denmark that were traded in Germany, which is currently under investigation.

The Hamburg Institute for Hygiene and The Environment discovered four contaminated cucumbers in a local market on Wednesday (25 May), three of which were from two separate Spanish suppliers.

However, the strain of E.coli that has caused a reported 16 deaths and hundreds of cases of illness is now said to be a different strain to that in the contaminated cucumbers, according to Bloomberg.

Amid the reported 16 fatalities, The Robert Koch Institute in Germany has confirmed that there have been six deaths relating to the outbreak. Some 373 illnesses in the country have also been confirmed.

The European Commission said yesterday that there have also been 36 cases of illness reported in Sweden, 13 in Denmark, six in France and seven in the Netherlands.

Following the outbreak, Russia has banned the import of raw vegetables produced in Germany and Spain following a deadly E.coli outbreak across Europe.

Russia said yesterday that raw vegetables including tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce produced in Germany and Spain would be banned until further notice.

There have been reports that Austria had banned the sale of all cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines grown in Spain but a spokesperson for the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety said that it had not banned their sale. One retailer had withdrawn a batch of organic cucumbers that had been contaminated with E.coli, the spokesperson said.

The Robert Koch Institute has advised against eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce to prevent further cases, particularly in northern Germany.

just-food is the world’s leading portal for the global pre-packaged food and retail industries. Its daily mix of breaking news, views, analysis and research serves over 100,000 food executives each month.