Thursday 2 June 2011


A deadly E. coli outbreak in Europe is expected to worsen in coming days, a senior German scientist has said. Fourteen people have died in Germany and one woman has now died in Sweden after a trip to Germany. "We hope the number of cases will go down but we fear it will worsen," said Oliver Grieve, of the University Medical Centre Schleswig-Holstein, where many victims are being treated. More than 1,500 people have been infected by enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), which can cause the deadly haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS). Seventeen people have died - 16 of them in Germany and one in Sweden with cases reported in Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK. 
• Germany: 470 cases, 16 deaths
• Sweden: 15 cases, one death
• Denmark: Seven cases
• The Netherlands: Three cases
• UK: Three cases
• Spain: One case
It was thought cucumbers from Spain were the source believed to be of the 0104 strain of E. coli. In many instances, the gastrointestinal infection has led to HUS, which causes kidney problems and is potentially fatal. Spanish officials refused to accept the blame, saying it was unclear exactly when and where the vegetables were contaminated and German health officials now admit they do not know where this particularly virulent strain of E.coli has come from.
The president of Spain's fruit and vegetable export federation has urged the government to deal with the outbreak, saying it was costing Spanish exporters $200m (£120m) a week. Asked which countries had stopped buying Spanish produce, Jorge Brotons reportedly told a news conference: "Almost all Europe. There is a domino effect on all vegetables and fruits."
Reaction to the cucumber crisis

Germany         Consumers told not to eat cucumbers, lettuces and raw tomatoes. 329 cases of  E.coli confirmed; 14 deaths
Spain               Top European cucumber producer - threatens to seek compensation from the European Union for lost vegetables sales
Russia              Ban on all imports of cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh salad from Spain and Germany pending further notice
Czech Republic  Some Spanish-grown cucumbers removed from sale
France             Some Spanish-grown cucumbers removed from sale
Austria            Ban on sale of cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines imported via Germany
Belgium          Reported to have banned cucumber imports from Spain
Netherlands  Halted all cucumber shipments to Germany
Denmark       Testing cucumbers for contamination
On Monday, Spanish Agriculture Minister Rosa Aguilar denied Spanish vegetables were to blame, and said Spain would look into claiming damages for losses incurred."Our understanding is that the problem does not come from the [country of] origin," Ms Aguilar was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. "The image of Spain is being damaged, Spanish producers are being damaged and the Spanish government is not prepared to accept this situation," she said. The European Commission lifted its warning over the Spanish cucumbers on Wednesday, saying tests "did not confirm the presence of the specific serotype (O104), which is responsible for the outbreak affecting humans." Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Spain would "seek reparations before the relevant authorities in Europe".
The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the outbreak as "very large and very severe" and has urged countries to work together to find the source of contamination.
Russia has now banned the import of all fresh vegetables from the European Union because of the E. coli outbreak. The country's chief medical officer said EU-produced vegetables would be seized across Russia. The EU regarded the Russian ban as "disproportionate" and would be lodging a protest, European Commission spokesman Frederic Vincent said. He added that the total value of EU exports of fresh vegetables to Russia was 600m euros a year, a quarter of the total exported. Spain, France, Germany and Poland are the biggest exporters.
Russia’s consumer protection agency head Gennady Onishchenko announced the ban to cover fresh vegetables from anywhere in the European Union and said orders to stop all incoming European vegetable shipments had been issued to Russian customs authorities, adding: "I call on people to forgo imported vegetables in favour of domestic produce. He criticised food safety standards in the EU."This shows that Europe's lauded health legislation - one which Russia is being urged to adopt - does not work," he said.

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