Death toll rises in cucumber E.coli outbreak

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Germany

Cucumbers - prime suspects in E.coli outbreak
Cucumbers - prime suspects in E.coli outbreak
The virulent strain of E.coli 0104 thought to have been carried on Spanish cucumbers has now killed 10 and sickened 1,000 as the effects of the contamination crisis spread across Europe.

The vast majority of the cases have been recorded around Hamburg in northern Germany, with authorities issuing a national warning to consumers to stop eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes and salad.

"As long as the experts in Germany and Spain have not been able to name the source of the agent without any doubt, the general warning for vegetables still holds,"​ said German Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner.

Europe-wide alert

The bacteria at the centre of the food contamination incident is enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), a powerful STEC - shiga toxin-producing strain of the bug. Victims presenting with Hemolytic-uremic Syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney problems and bloody diarrhoea, are those most at risk.

The Sweden-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has labelled it "one of the largest described of HUS worldwide and the largest ever reported in Germany".

German investigations have continued to focus on organic cucumbers from the Spanish provinces of Almeria and Malaga as one source, although inquiries into other potential sources remain ongoing.

The European Commission confirmed Friday that a batch of cucumbers originating in the Netherlands and traded in Germany were also under scrutiny.

Cases in France, the UK, Sweden, Denmark and The Netherlands have also been reported – although these are so far believed to concern either German nationals visiting these countries or persons who had visited Germany. Almost 70 per cent of the victims have so far been female.

Yesterday, the Czech Republic and Austria removed some Spanish-grown cucumbers off store shelves over contamination fears. Czech officials warned tainted vegetables could also have been exported to Hungary and Luxembourg.

Closely monitoring

Food safety officials in Austria confirmed suspect Spanish cucumbers from Malagan company Frunet SL had entered the country via a German wholesaler. It added the recall included tomatoes and eggplants.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said it was following the situation closely, while the Commission said it would be monitoring developments daily through the RASFF network and the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS).

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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