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Farmers set to sue over E. coli warning

The Local · 27 May 2011, 16:06

Published: 27 May 2011 16:06 GMT+02:00

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The Northern Horticultural Association and the Farmers’ Association of Hamburg announced Friday they were considering legal action over what they say has needlessly damaged their business.

“With this claim, we are taking action against the warning by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) from last Wednesday against the consumption of vegetables in northern Germany,” said Paul Helle, the head of the Northern Horticultural Association, which represents small commercial farms known as market gardens.

The RKI, the government's top advisory body on public health, this week warned against eating uncooked tomatoes, cucumbers and leafy salads in northern Germany after the outbreak of the potentially deadly E. coli bacteria.

Helle said that since Wednesday he had counted at least 100 market gardens in Hamburg that had suffered financial losses. Across the whole north of the country, more than 1,000 businesses had been affected by the RKI warning, he said. This number could climb further.

“From the severity of the damage, the situation is definitely comparable to the one that existed 25 years ago during the Chernobyl catastrophe.”

The farmers’ group said they wanted to first investigate the precise extent of the damage before they mount their legal action.

Since the original warning, authorities in Hamburg have identified four cucumbers contaminated with the bacteria, which has killed five people and made hundreds sick. Three of the cucumbers came from Spain and the fourth is of unknown origin, though some media organisations have reported that it came from the Netherlands.

Farmers across northern Germany have spent the past two days disposing of tonnes of these products. Even after the Spanish link was established, consumers have remained sceptical of German produce.

Story continues below…

“In Lower Saxony alone, five bulk purchasers have cancelled their orders of vegetables,” Axel Boese of the Professional Vegetable Gardeners of Northern Germany said on Friday. “Vegetable growers are being hit hard when consumers reject fresh vegetables for a few days.”


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:49 May 27, 2011 by twisted
The health authorities should have just ignored the problem? Once they isolated the cause, they had no choice but to warn the public. Of course, the public is going to heed the warnings and not eat the suspected items. And now the farmers want to sue? Give me a break !!!!
16:50 May 27, 2011 by marimay
Wow, really? What a bunch of nut jobs.
00:50 May 28, 2011 by InTheBubble
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
08:08 May 28, 2011 by marimay
I dunno, I was just in Regensburg the other day and it smelled like human sewage there too....
12:22 May 28, 2011 by Kennneth Ingle
With what right do the agricultural bandits think they should take the health authorities to court? The farmers are the very people who have changed land culture from, a natural form of food production, to an expensive chemically contaminated mass production of unhealthy comestibles. Their efforts - often supported by governments - to turn animals and plants into living factories have more than once led to formerly unknown illnesses spreading amongst the human race. It is most unfortunate, that the EU aids such selfish profit craving by wasting huge amounts of taxpayers money in the form of subsidies.
14:50 May 29, 2011 by catjones
The continuing effort to dispel the notion that America is the litigious nation.
01:04 May 30, 2011 by InTheBubble
Touchy! Touchy! My comment about Spain was removed by The Local for "breach of our terms." It seems the editor hasn't been to Spain yet. We in USSA have the same problem with Mexican produce (and ANY food from China) - it just can't be trusted to be safe. Germans should mostly produce their own food, and any food imports should come from safer regions, like France and Italy.
09:21 May 30, 2011 by Gilly58
This is yet another man made issue that seems designed into scaring the general public at large...remember the mass panic over bird flu and the gov's response into panic buying the 'bird flu jabs' of which they couldn't sell on to the savvy majority you and resold at a major loss. With advanced science these days, we should first be in a position to track and identify the source of such out breaks before pointing fingers at anyone...this will cost us ALL dearly in the long run. Personal hygeine should remain paramount no matter what the outcome.
10:18 May 30, 2011 by freechoice
why can't people just wash their veges before they eat?
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