Spanish sue Hamburg for E.coli cucumber warning
A Spanish company is suing the city of Hamburg for more than €2 million after its cucumbers were wrongly blamed for a deadly E.coli outbreak last spring, officials said Thursday.
Frunet, a Spanish organic fruit and vegetable company, has lodged a €2.3-million ($3.0 million) claim against the northern German port's health and consumer protection authority.
"The Office for Health and Consumer Protection rejects these claims since the warning about the company's cucumbers was necessary and right," the health office said in a written statement.
Insisting it believed it had taken the right course of action in issuing a warning with the information it had at the time, it said: "Protecting health comes before economic interests of companies."
A Hamburg court spokesman confirmed the claim had been lodged at the end of November.
Fifty people died in Germany and one in Sweden after the outbreak of the virulent strain of enterohaemorrhagic E.coli (EHEC) in May and June which authorities in Hamburg, the epicentre of the outbreak, initially attributed to Spanish cucumbers. Germany later said vegetable sprouts were to blame.
The cucumber warning prompted an EU-wide alert and dealt Spanish growers a heavy blow as sales slumped across the 27-nation bloc. Producers in other countries were also hit.
The European Union provided €227 million in compensation for European producers of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, courgettes and sweet peppers, withdrawn from the market as a result of the disease.