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Authorities still hunting for E. coli source

The Local · 6 Jun 2011, 18:24

Published: 06 Jun 2011 08:17 GMT+02:00
Updated: 06 Jun 2011 18:24 GMT+02:00

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"The first tests have not shown the bacteria to be present. However I think it is right that the warning be maintained," Aigner told reporters after first results from sprouts from a farm in the northern state of Lower Saxony came back negative.

Results available from 23 of the 40 samples of seeds, water, ventilation and work surfaces tested indicated they were free of the bacteria responsible for 23 deaths and more than 2,000 people falling ill.

Klaus Verbeck, who runs the farm in Bienenbüttel, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Hamburg, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung he uses no fertilizers for growing a variety of sprouts and had no idea how they might have been contaminated.

His farm, which produces sprouts for lettuce, azuki beans, mung beans, fenugreek, alfalfa and lentils and receives seed deliveries from several countries, has been ordered closed and all products recalled, authorities said.

"Salad sprouts are grown from seeds and water. They aren't fertilised. And there aren't any fertilisers used elsewhere on the farm," Verbeck said, alluding to the fact the E. coli bacteria may originally have come from animal droppings.

Aigner said the national health authorities were for now sticking to their guidelines for raw cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, in particular in northern Germany. But her announcement was another setback in the battle to find the source of the outbreak that continues to claim lives.

The latest victim, a 90-year-old woman, died on Friday from haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a fatal kidney complaint, after becoming infected with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), the Schleswig-Holstein state Health Ministry said on Monday.

Health officials now say the source of the bacteria may never be found.

German authorities have drawn the ire of farmers as they suggested that everything from Spanish cucumbers to the sprouts could be to blame for the outbreak. Most recently they ordered the sprout farm closed and all its products recalled after believing it was at least a partial source for the outbreak.

As officials grappled for answers, criticism of their handling of the crisis intensified Monday.

“I wonder what the health and agriculture ministers are doing actually,” Renate Künast, a parliamentary leader for the Green party told the Berliner Zeitung.

The Federation of German Consumer Organisations joined in the complaints, complaining that the government’s communication strategy has been disjointed and confusing.

Spain's government also sharply criticised Germany last week after officials in Hamburg, the epicentre of the scare, warned the contamination might be linked to cucumbers imported from Spain, something which later proved to be untrue.

The outbreak, which has spread to a dozen other European countries and the United States, has caused chaos among Europe's vegetable growers after Germany warned against eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes or lettuce.

Emergency meeting planned

EU agriculture ministers were to hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss the crisis and its impact on vegetable producers.

The European Commission was likely to ask states to back special compensation for farmers whose sales of fresh produce have evaporated.

Story continues below…

Spain said on Monday it will demand "100 percent" compensation from Germany for falsely blaming Spanish cucumbers for the deadly E. coli outbreak, at the meeting.

"The sector and the regional governments are still trying to estimate (the damage) so that tomorrow at the extraordinary meeting of the European Union on agriculture we can put the figures on the table," Agriculture Minister Rosa Aguilar told Spanish public television.

"We have told Germany that it must reimburse us for the loss. If it covers 100 percent, which is what we are demanding, the affair will be closed. Otherwise we reserve the right (to take) legal action," she said.

The World Health Organisation has identified the bacteria as a rare E. coli strain (0104:H4) never before connected to a food poisoning outbreak. It is said to be extremely aggressive and resistant to antibiotics.

The Local/AFP/DPA/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:46 June 6, 2011 by freechoice
it's payback time! let's cook all the E-colis and eat them!!
09:51 June 6, 2011 by jg.
"German Health Minister Daniel Bahr has insisted it is too early to give the all-clear over the deadly E. coli outbreak despite strong indications that the source of the bacteria had finally been found in a bean sprout farm."

It is a pity that such caution was lacking when blame was dumped on the Spanish. I guess it is "too early" because they may yet be able to show that some Eastern Europeans were working at the farm and there may therefore still be an opportunity to blame some foreigners after all.
10:00 June 6, 2011 by marimay
I am glad I live in southern Germany. I enjoy my Chinese egg fried noodles with vegetables that always has bean sprouts in them. :/ Had some recently too.
12:02 June 6, 2011 by iseedaftpeople
well let's hope they have now actually traced the origin of this bug, so I can go back to eating fresh produce... getting kinda tired of eating processed/frozen food all the time. I've gained about two pounds like that since this scare started.
12:45 June 6, 2011 by Beachrider
It is a good thing that this is at an end. I agree with earlier posters that time wasted blaming the wrong cause certainly cost more German lives.

Whatever the cause of success, treat them well. Whatever the cause of wasted energy, root them out.

Here's to better process for resolving health issues. I hope that shared process and open mindedness were as useful as it appears.
14:15 June 6, 2011 by ValP
Gosh, I am so glad I ignored the panic and after a day of hesitation continued happily eating fresh salads on a daily basis.... (without cucumbers though - never buy them here anyway, they are always either soft and half-rotten or taste like nothing - deadly bacteria or not.....)
14:19 June 6, 2011 by marimay
Yeah, that has been my experience with cucumbers (and most other vegetables, except for maybe tomatoes) here, too. I think its because they keep them too cold before they put them out for sale.
14:44 June 6, 2011 by jbaker
Grow your own vegetables. E-Coli comes from animals. Plants only carry E-Coli only if they are infected by animal by-products.

All the articles about E-Coli and vegetables around the world this week have been misleading.

Vegetables are best for you in their raw state. Animal meat is best fully cooked. Keep them seperate in all ways and everything will be fine.

Maybe the frozen vegetable producers are trying to corner the Market?

Buy vegetables in their natural state at a local farm or farmers market. Stay away from pre-packaged Super Market junk.
15:59 June 6, 2011 by nycinhamburg
I guess the LOCAL is a bit slow in updating so here is the latest from the Associated Press:


Basically, the test came back negative! The e-coli did not come from Sprouts. So we are back at square one! These German officials need to get their act together. I understand then have a responsibility to their citizens but that also means the farmers/companies being affected. They named this small organic sprout farm before they had the test results and this poor farmer has lost a ton of money and I am sure it is safe to say his business is done. no one will ever buy anything from his farm again.
16:14 June 6, 2011 by Perikita
I agree.... It is just too careless to blame someone without any legitimate proof. I really pity all parts affected with this irresponsible attitude.
16:18 June 6, 2011 by melbournite
oh bloody hell.... here's a little hint for the people hot on the case of the killer bean sprouts, the next time you decide to destroy a countries agricultural exports or some person's liveliehood.. maybe just maybe do the tests first before the announcement... after all we've all been eating out of tins for the past 2 weeks, so 24 hours longer isnt going to make much difference.

Dont you realise you are starting to look like a bunch of freaking twats?
17:32 June 6, 2011 by harcourt
19:02 June 6, 2011 by PhoenixJutzi
Eat your veggies. Just wash them in a bleach/water solution first. I have been on Mission Trips to third world countries, we ate the local produce, but always washed the lettuce and other raw veggies in bleach water first, then thoroughly rinse the bleach water solution off the veggies with purified water.
04:48 June 7, 2011 by Dr.D.11
It is unfortunate that one cannot isolate the bacteria:

E.Coli.It is also,unfortunate that there are highly lethal

strians of E.Coli,waiting around the corner.

Still,that doe not make a difference,when one have a system

that prevents from these tragedy to happen.It is so cheap,affordable and effective immediately.One has,just,to

ask for it.(The solution is available)

Good luck.
06:28 June 7, 2011 by helpisoutthere
Yes, we are all skeptical.

However, we should save lives if we can with useful information.

We shouldn't ignore potentially extremely important information out of

pride or lack of faith.

June 3rd, 2011

A Dutch seër received a message from Jesus, on the source of the

EHEC-bacterium in the North of Germany.

This bacterium is present on the outside of the packages of Yoghurt

made by the German milk-processing industry in that area.

Probably also on the cartons holding the Yoghurt packages.

By restocking Yoghurt on the shelves in the supermarket the baceria

get transferred to more places.

This Yoghurt is used as a dressing for salades and by holding the

packages of Yoghurt the bacterium is moved to vegetables and to the

human body.

Wash all packages of Yoghurt on the outside thoroughly.

Do not eat uncooked vegetables nor raw fruits.

Eat only cooked vegetables and cooked fruits.

To save lives, please, try to send this message to the North of

Germany to the milk-processing industry and/or to the investigative

research team, the politicians and government leaders in that area.
06:55 June 7, 2011 by harcourt
God, this is all we need - religion moving in on the act !!
09:42 June 7, 2011 by melbournite
Jesus allowed the holocaust to happen.. what makes u think he gives a stuff about EHEC?
15:57 June 7, 2011 by LecteurX
This Helpisoutthere guy is probably the reincarnation of Logic Guy, that nutjob who was always around posting about his REAL CONSERVATISM.
06:15 June 8, 2011 by x.w.
I wonder if anyone has considered the huge amounts of goose poop along the Alster as a potential source of drinking water contamination.
15:36 June 8, 2011 by heathen
They have an e-coli outbreak every year or two in the USA. Most of time the source leads back to Mexican field workers taking dumps out in fields and using a lettuce leaves as toilet paper and it all ends up in Safeway/Luckys/Piggly Wigglys/Ralphs produce stands. Doesn't matter if the operators offer porta-potties or wash facilities, as the Mexis are under a grind to produce and aren't offered potty breaks and if they were, they'd have to hike a mile or two back and forth to the sh!thouse...too much money out of the man's hands...considering that these migrants only earn a couple bucks an hour is shameful...
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