• Germany's news in English
 

Media roundup: The contagious madness of E. coli

Published: 27 May 2011 12:44 GMT+02:00

More people die every day in car accidents than are likely to perish from the current E. coli outbreak. Yet we know every time we get behind the wheel of a car that we are taking a small risk. We don't, on the other hand, expect to die from eating a cucumber.

The human psychology of any food scare is at once irrational and quite understandable. Plenty of people point to the reassuring statistics, but are any of them eating Spanish cucumbers this week after three such vegetables from the southern nation were identified as sources of the bacteria?

As the death toll of the E. coli contamination rose to five this week, and 60 new people fell ill on Friday, the German media tended to gravitate to one or the other corner: either the whole episode was overwrought hysterics or a grim reminder that food scandals were part of modern life with its hi-tech farming and long-distance food imports.

The left-wing Berliner Zeitung was the strongest proponent of the latter case, arguing that 21st-century consumers were so geographically and psychologically disconnected from their food production that they had only themselves to blame.

“We no longer eat food that arrives from the fields outside the city onto our table. We eat what is on the shelf in front of us. The grocery chains spare no effort to be able to offer us this convenience. No road is too far and no farming method too absurd. The fact that it’s worth it for cucumbers to come from Andalusia to Lower Saxony is ultimately because of us, the customers.

“We couldn’t care less where the cucumbers on the shelf come from, how they are grown, produced and who gets paid what for them. That the number of feed and grocery transport continues to climb, that they ruin the climate – we also don’t care.

“Meanwhile, we are presented with the bill every few months when a new food scandal arises as the result of the insanity. Until next time.”

The regional daily Rheinische Post took a similar line but focussed less on dreaming of a return to simpler production and consumption and more on the need for more inspections and regulation. Noting that organic as well as conventionally farmed products seemed to be affected, it concluded that “there is only one way to protect consumers from unhealthy food: checks, checks and more checks.”

Germany had barely got over the egg dioxin scandal and now, once again, the biggest losers were the farmers, the paper wrote. It praised the advice of the Robert Koch Institute but urged authorities to keep their recommendations as cautious and up-to-date as possible to protect farmers.

At the other end of the spectrum, the right-wing Berliner Morgenpost pointed out that swine flu resulted in a much higher death toll than that caused so far by E. coli. And swine flu, ultimately, was seen as media hype.

“If that was hype, what will we say in hindsight about E. coli in a few weeks’ time?” it asked.

Even the small risk posed by the bacteria could be avoided by taking sensible hygiene precautions. And if a person does get sick, they can see their doctor right away.

Bavarian paper Nordbayerischer Kurier bested all competitors in the press – if the only criterion was German triumphalism over the Mediterranean. The regional Bavarian paper cast the cucumber contamination as just the latest in a long list of woes for Spain.

“Poor Spain: the economy is at rock bottom, the state is on the verge of collapse, youth rebellion over the lack of job prospects – and now the cucumbers. One of the prime Iberian exports is apparently making people in Germany sick and even costing human lives. Even if not all the infection trails can be followed, the clues lead over the Pyrenees to a sick land.”

Treading a careful middle ground, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung feared that excessive precautionary measures would needlessly harm vegetable growers. Of course any bacteria that had killed at least four people and sickened hundreds of others must be taken seriously. Vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant women above all needed to heed the advice of the Robert Koch Institute regarding cucumbers, salad and tomatoes.

But panic and hysteria were undue, the paper wrote.

“Domestic producers in particular must not be put under general suspicion,” it said. The community was “better served by expert knowledge than by creating panic.”

The Local/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

13:03 May 27, 2011 by iseedaftpeople
"Another 60 people in Germany fell ill overnight Friday to E. coli bacteria. Roughly 82 million woke up feeling fine."

that just about says it all.

Don't panic. You're more likely to get hit by a car on your way to work every day than to succumb to the ECHC virus.

That said, the madness surrounding that bug, that's quite another story, apparently... it is infecting people up and down the country... Just this morning I got some stuff for lunch from my local supermarket here, and in the grocery section they were stacked to the roof with cucumbers that nobody seemed to want. Even massive price cuts didnt seem to help. Pristine looking, fresh thick cucumbers for 39 cents a piece, and still, nobody seemed to want to bother.
08:48 June 4, 2011 by fancydecor
another gift to world from west!!!!
Today's headlines
RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Society
In North Germany, money sometimes DOES grow on trees
National
Hero mechanics stop Bavaria shooting spree
International
Denmark says that border controls are coming
National
Did hackers take control of German missile battery?
Politics
Munich gives gay pride green light
Business & Money
Berlin rent controls hit prices hard
National
Fighting to breastfeed in public without shame
Society
Ice cream for dogs 'gobbled up in one gulp'
Education
Are hotpants a feminist issue?
Rhineland
Lion cub reunited with mother
National
How the heatwave is cracking Germany's Autobahns
International
Why the French are more sympathetic to Greece than the Germans
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
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
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

7,226
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd