• Germany's news in English
 

Deadly E. coli found in Spanish cucumbers

Published: 26 May 2011 14:12 GMT+02:00
Updated: 26 May 2011 17:38 GMT+02:00

German supermarkets were on Thursday afternoon pulling Spanish cucumbers off their shelves in response to the scare.

The contaminated vegetables were sold at a Hamburg market, Hamburg’s Health Minister Cornelia Storck said.

Of four cucumbers found to be carrying the bacteria, three came from two separate Spanish suppliers while the origin of the fourth was unknown. One of the contaminated cucumbers was an organic product.

At least three people have died during the outbreak and other deaths are suspected to be related to the bacteria. Roughly 140 people are considered by health authorities to have been severely sickened during the outbreak. Most of the roughly 600 cases of E. coli reported so far have been centred in northern Germany, particularly in the Hamburg area.

The strain of E. coli gripping Germany is a particularly virulent one, said Helge Karch, a researcher at the University Hospital of Münster, whose team discovered the identity of the strain and is developing a test to more easily detect it.

The discovery is “an important step in the search for paths of transmission,” Karch said.

The public health authority, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), encouraged people to avoid eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce for the time being.

That prompted cafes and bakeries in the north of the country to abandon salad en masse, spurring a noticeable drop in vegetable sales on Thursday.

Kurt-Henning Klamoth, president of the German Farmers Federation (DBB) accused the media of scaremongering and condemned speculation that the illness has been spread through organic fertilizers.

Health officials cautioned that they were still looking for a definitive cause and emphasized that more deaths were likely.

“We must expect to lose patients," said University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf kidney specialist Rolf Stahl.

The country’s largest supermarket chain, Metro – which operates Real, Metro Cash & Carry and Galeria Kaufhof – along with Kaiser’s Tengelmann and the Rewe Group have all stopped sales of the vegetables.

Metro plans as a precaution to stock only cucumbers from other countries.

Discounter Aldi Nord said it doesn’t normally stock Spanish cucumber anyway but it has taken other vegetables and fruits from Spain such as spinach leaves off its shelves anyway.

Aldi Süd, which operates in the south of the country, said it saw no need to take action for the time being because it did not believe any of its products were affected. Spain is Germany’s second biggest supplier of cucumbers within the European Union, sending 179,500 tonnes of the vegetable to Germany in 2009, according to the Federal Office for Agriculture.

Meanwhile European Union officials expressed concern that the outbreak would soon spread beyond Germany's borders. The bloc was expected to soon declare a special alert, which would authorize EU members to take special action to protect their populations, such as putting restrictions on German vegetable imports.

“It’s a matter of time until the hazardous E. coli pathogens jump to other EU countries,” European Parliament Committee for Health and Food Safety chairman Jo Leinen told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

As a pre-emptive measure, the bloc was expected soon to declare a special alert, which would authorize EU members to take special action to protect their populations, such as putting restrictions on German vegetable imports.

The latest death to be definitively linked to the outbreak was a 41-year-old woman from Cuxhaven on the North Sea. Hamburg health authorities said they were determining whether a 38-year-old man found dead in his apartment on Tuesday may have been killed by E. Coli.

The Local/DAPD/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

11:20 May 26, 2011 by Simon_Kellett
In other news 11 people died on the roads yesterday: experts called on citizens to avoid going on the roads until they are made safe.
14:37 May 26, 2011 by elboertjie
Better yet Simon_Kellett, war was declared on car manufacturers and the military is bombing them for humanitarian reasons to keep us safe on the road.

I wonder if this is not economic warfare/blackmail on Spain with regards to forcing them into accepting more debt and implementing more severe austerity measures as opposed to defaulting or leaving the euro.

A case of: 'Unless you do what we say, here is a small sample of things to come'.
14:45 May 26, 2011 by freechoice
take it easy people!! it's not rapture yet...

well at least not yet...
15:17 May 26, 2011 by auniquecorn
elboertjie, I actually thought the same thing.
15:50 May 26, 2011 by Johnne
Oh God, Spain is in trouble.
17:30 May 26, 2011 by JDee
most likely they used manure to fertilise the plants in the greenhouses, and German bakeries don't usually wash the bits of lettuce and cucumber they put in brotchen....but the root cause of e-coli is still industrial farming methods, not vegetables!
17:53 May 26, 2011 by anurag_bagaria
I wonder, how come this supply from Spain to Germany has reached only one particular region / city. I am more than sure that the consignment should have reached other regions too and since no ill news from other cities, the cucumbers alone could not be the reason for this.
20:09 May 26, 2011 by steffsteff
I totally agree with you anurag_bagaria.
20:41 May 26, 2011 by _scythe_
A common sense approach to not-home-grown, unprocessed food is to peel the skin, if possible.

On another note, now vegetables in Germany are not only tasteless, but deadly.
21:04 May 26, 2011 by wenddiver
Suggest you live off Energy drinks, Coca-Cola, Chocolate, Marshmellows, McDonalds and Cigarettes like the US and avoid foods that are capable of rotting or other things found in nature.
00:07 May 27, 2011 by Rocho
Mmmhhh...

So perfect German people couldn't guess where the fourth cucumber came from?... How strange... And also you talk about two different Spanish providers... what a coincidence!... This smells like something in the DIVINE distribution and store chain INSIDE Germany, in Hamburg was, ... dirty?, not so clean?...

But now the damage is already done, people ill or died, and your finger ALWAYS point towards the same place: Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland.
00:13 May 28, 2011 by fromstuttgart
Turns my stomach every time I go into a cafe in Germany and watch the bare hands moving from food item to food item, coffee machine, back to pretzels and bread, wipe off on stained apron, go to the back to do who knows what, and back out to handle more food. Or the doner guy who wipes his hands on his dirty apron and jams a pita into that hand to slice it open; wipes his brow, and goes back to touching the food going into your lunch.
Today's headlines
Greece crisis
Greek offer 'no basis for discussion': Schäuble
Pro-EU Greeks demonstrate outside the Athens parliament on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Greek offer 'no basis for discussion': Schäuble

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Wednesday crisis-hit Greece was sending mixed signals in debt talks and called on its government to "clarify its position" before negotiations with creditors can resume. READ  

Weathermen issue snow alert in heatwave
Could this be July in North Rhine-Westphalia? Photo: DPA

Weathermen issue snow alert in heatwave

The German Weather Service (DWD) issued a weather warning for North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Wednesday predicting 5 to 10 cm of snow and winds of up to 60 km/h. READ  

Analysis
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
Angela Merkel faces a battery of microphones and cameras at a eurozone summit in Brussels on June 22nd. Photo: DPA

How German media shaped the Greece crisis

It's often said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the one person who truly matters when it comes to how the eurozone deals with Greece. But how much freedom does 'Mutti' really have in the face of the public and the media? READ  

Women trade punches over neglected dog poo
'This is not a dog toilet.' Photo: DPA

Women trade punches over neglected dog poo

Bergisch Gladbach in North Rhine-Westphalia, hometown of supermodel Heide Klum, was once linked in Germans' minds with the catwalk. But now it is just as infamous for a dog walk, after two women came to blows over a mound of pooch poo. READ  

Referee costs Germany dear against USA
Head coach Silvia Neid (r) with Celia Sasic (l) on the bench. Photo: DPA

Referee costs Germany dear against USA

Germany coach Silvia Neid said she found the referee's decision-making 'sad' in her country's 2-0 semi-final defeat to the USA in the Women's World Cup in Montreal on early Wednesday morning. READ  

Train strikes
Train drivers and Bahn bury the hatchet
Three ICE (intercity) trains stand in a siding. Photo: DPA

Train drivers and Bahn bury the hatchet

The Train Drivers' Union (GDL) and Deutsche Bahn (DB) have finally agreed to end their dispute over drivers' work conditions, offering hope that nine months of rail chaos has finally come to an end. READ  

European heatwave
Keep cool and stay safe in the July heatwave
A couple leaping into an open-air pool in Freiburg. Photo: DPA

Keep cool and stay safe in the July heatwave

Here's how to keep cool as the mercury soars during this week's heatwave in Germany. And don't forget your pets! READ  

Former judge to see NSA target list
Photo: DPA

Former judge to see NSA target list

The Bundestag (German parliament) inquiry into spying by the US National Security Agency (NSA) has chosen a former judge to examine lists of targets given to German spies by the Americans. READ  

Germanwings tragedy
Germany learns lessons on pilots’ mental health
Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt (left) and aviation safety task force leader Matthias von Randow. Photo: DPA:

Germany learns lessons on pilots’ mental health

In response to the Germanwings flight tragedy, Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt presented plans to strengthen mental health care for pilots while Germanwings announced further compensation for relatives of the flight's victims. READ  

Germany: land of cheap beer and drunkards?
Getting müllered? Football star Thomas Müller enjoys a Mass. Photo: DPA

Germany: land of cheap beer and drunkards?

It's official. If getting drunk on a park bench is your thing, look no further than Germany as an ideal location. A study released on Monday shows it's cheap. And you'll have plenty of company. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
Politics
Follow our LIVE blog as Europe holds breath over Greece crisis
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Culture
What's top of the charts in June
Gallery
Germany's most beautiful cycle routes
Business & Money
The business case for Britain in the EU
Rhineland
Why farmers are free to pong up the countryside
National
German restaurants among world's best
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,946
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd