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Spain threatens to sue Hamburg for E. coli scare

The Local · 1 Jun 2011, 11:59

Published: 01 Jun 2011 11:59 GMT+02:00

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German authorities admitted on Tuesday that tests on two suspect Spanish cucumbers showed they did not carry the enterohamorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) bacteria strain that has killed 15 people in Germany and one in Sweden.

"We do not rule out taking action against the authorities who called into question the quality of our products," Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told broadcaster Cadena Ser. "We may take action against the authorities, in this case Hamburg."

Spain's vegetable and fruit exporters estimate damages of more than €200 million ($290 million) a week as importers across Europe stop buying Spanish produce because of the scare.

Madrid has demanded European Union compensation for Spain and other producer countries hit by the crisis.

"The bacteria is not in Spain," Rubalcaba said. "Once the truth is re-established, what we need to do is repair the damages, which are not small: we have lost a lot of money and a lot of our image," the minister said.

But German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner on Wednesday strongly defended Hamburg officials against the Spanish criticism.

“There were E. coli pathogens found on Spanish cucumbers and therefore a quick warning had to be given in compliance with European regulations,” she said, adding that officials in Hamburg had “acted really well.”

German authorities say they are still searching for the source of the outbreak.

European Union officials did not immediately weigh in on the Spanish complaints, instead focusing on getting a handle on the large-scale outbreak.

Story continues below…

In a statement from European health experts gathered in Brussels, the EU asked Germany to “take all necessary measures to move as quickly as possible to identify all the causes for the outbreak of the disease and the route of infection.”

The Local/AFP/DAPD/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:51 June 1, 2011 by delvek
E. Coli 16th victim is the European Union.
16:53 June 1, 2011 by MonkeyMania
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:00 June 1, 2011 by Carlos Hausner
As Samuel Johnson reportedly observed:

"It has been a common saying of physicians in England, that a cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing."

Boswell: Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides
18:16 June 1, 2011 by MonkeyMania
Notice my comment was removed for "breach of terms". Some black sarchastic humour obviously doesn't sit well with TL. Somewhat confusing how the press are always arguing for freedom of expression and then deny it on their own medium. Double standards, methinks.
20:55 June 1, 2011 by lwexcel
I don't get it ... Do Spanish people not eat cucumbers? I mean lets think about this Germany blames Spain for importing these e.coli cucumbers, but wouldn't it be common since to assume that if this were actually true, then people in Spain would be suffering from this disease as well. Since the only people that are suffering from it are people located in Germany why is no one entertaining the idea that this was something that was grown here? I mean 17 people have died from this 16 from Germany and one from southern Sweden but did he/she travel to Germany recently? When are people going to start asking these questions?
21:11 June 1, 2011 by MonkeyMania
Careful with those comments lwexcel. The thought police will come down hard on you. One cannot critise ze Germans on zis vebsite. Of course it originated in Germany but isn't that a national trait to blame someone else? Wouldn't surprise me if the bogus BIO industry in Germany were behind this.
21:31 June 1, 2011 by harcourt
I hope Spain doesn't just threaten
01:32 June 2, 2011 by skerryvore
To the comments above: Yes, the Swedish woman was in northern Germany.

Yes, Spanish people eat cucumbers but maybe they don't eat the organic ones from the specific farms that were the source of the E coli (the 'innocent' E coli, that will just give you the runs, as opposed to the guilty E coli that will destroy your kidneys).

Furthermore, I can go to Mexico and drink the same water that the Mexicans drink regularly but, I will get violently ill. So yes the Spanish can eat cucumbers and not get sick, whichever reason.

Finally, no one is accusing the Spanish of anything. It was a public health decision because some Spanish cucumbers did have a certain of E coli on them and there wasn't time to analyze - perhaps they should have waited until the tests came back and more people had a chance to be potentially infected. Furthermore, if you don't understand the gist of the above article, go back to school and cease making comments re. articles you can't grasp.

Harcourt, I too hope Spain sues Germany. They can go to the European court and say 'it wasn't our strain of E-coli which was found on the cucumbers that caused this problem, it was another country's!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good E-coli vs. bad E-coli.
01:53 June 2, 2011 by ruby_18559
hmmmm...could it be a biohazard accident or something? it's creepy how the patients have weird symptoms & the bacteria got inside the vegetables supposedly.....hope they figure this out soon
07:45 June 2, 2011 by harcourt
skerryvore, - I was thinking that way too - when I go to the Middle East which I do about once a year I ALWAYS go down with a viscous diarrhoea and the locals don't. Of course they have developed a natural immúnity which we super hygenic Europeans and Americans may not have. This could of course explain the predominance of female cases in Germany.
08:17 June 2, 2011 by MonkeyMania
Guys, Spain is not that far removed from Germany and we have been eating Spanish food for years. Also, why no outbreak from Spanish cucumbers in England, Ireland, France etc? Would the Hamburg authorities have been so fast to press the panic button if the produce was German orientated? A duty of care exists here. If it was a German car with a dangerous fault, you can be sure the authorities would check it out fully before making a re-call. The negligence by the Spanish authorities has cost Spanish producers a lot in lost exports -not only to Germany- lost reputation which will be costly to re-establish. Are you trying to tell me it is only Germans who have sensitive stomachs?
09:44 June 2, 2011 by harcourt
Well it might not be a conclusive factor but Germany is a country which consumes a very high proportion of Bio products in Europe and these were said to be Bio cucumbers. Besides there have been cases outside of Germany - it depends on how many are imported from Spain which is not the only country which exports cucumbers.
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