• Germany edition
 
Media roundup: The contagious madness of E. coli
Photo: DPA

Media roundup: The contagious madness of E. coli

Published: 27 May 2011 12:44 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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
Spring back in German consumers' step?
Photo: DPA

Spring back in German consumers' step?

Update: Consumer confidence in Germany has stopped falling, as households appear to be no longer fazed by concerns about the economic fallout from geopolitical crises, a new poll found on Friday. READ  

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth
Photo: DPA

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth

Germany will get an early Christmas present of around €779 million from the EU, thanks to weaker than expected GDP growth. READ  

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told
Photo: DPA

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told

It will take several days to find out what caused a massive explosion on Thursday which rocked a town on the Rhine, killing a builder and injuring 26 others. READ  

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'
An NH90 helicopter. Photo: DPA

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'

Germany's fleet of NH90 helicopters is undergoing engineering checks after one of them suffered a serious engine failure, in the latest blow to the country's military capabilities. READ  

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m
Rainer Schwarz at a court hearing in September into the case. Photo: DPA

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m

The man who was blamed for Berlin's miserable attempt to build a new airport must be paid more than €1 million - after being fired. READ  

Steinmeier challenges UN over Isis gas reports
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Kurds watching the attack on Kobane. Photo: DPA

Steinmeier challenges UN over Isis gas reports

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pressed UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon to bring possible poison gas use by Isis in Iraq before the Security Council. READ  

Ludwigshafen explosion kills one, injures 26
An eyewitness captured the moment of the explosion on their phone. Photo: DPA

Ludwigshafen explosion kills one, injures 26

UPDATE: One person has died and 26 others are injured after a huge explosion in Ludwigshafen, western Germany on Thursday. READ  

Germany has just ten Ebola beds
Photo: DPA

Germany has just ten Ebola beds

Doctors at high-level infectious disease clinics say that caring for patients with the Ebola virus is much more intensive than they first thought, meaning they can handle fewer cases at once. READ  

Refugee Crisis
Now Berlin turns to tents to house refugees
A refugee protests on the roof of the former Gerhart Hauptmann School in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Now Berlin turns to tents to house refugees

Berlin has turned to huge tents and shipping containers to shelter growing numbers of refugees. With winter approaching, city politicians have called on the federal government for help. READ  

Clueless Merkel forgets the F-word
Merkel suffers from Wortfindungsstörung at the IT summit in Hamburg. Photo: DPA

Clueless Merkel forgets the F-word

Angela Merkel's government is often criticized for its lack of understanding of all things digital and an appearance by the chancellor in Hamburg, which was supposed to change those perceptions, has only made things worse. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: Huge explosion rocks Ludwigshafen
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
Which high school cliche is your German city?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Storm hits southern Germany
Sponsored Article
An international school unlike any other : School on the Rhine
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Robbers blow up Berlin bank
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: Facebook
Society
German motorcycle gang joins Isis fight
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
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

3,526
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd