Europe trades barbs over origin of killer bacteria

Russia banned European vegetable imports Thursday as Britain reported an outbreak of the mysterious lethal bacteria that has killed 18, mainly in Germany, and Spain demanded a payback for its farmers.

German authorities have failed to pinpoint the origin of the outbreak, which has infected more than 2,000 people in the last month and dealt a blow to the European farm sector amid official warnings to avoid raw vegetables.

As confusion reigned over the killer strain of E. coli bacteria, Russia said it had blacklisted imports of fresh vegetables from European Union countries with immediate effect and slammed food safety standards in the bloc.

Meanwhile Britain said seven people there had been infected with the bacteria, including three British nationals who had recently travelled to Germany and four German nationals.

Russia's Rospotrebnadzor watchdog said its ban would remain in force until the EU explained what caused the 18 deaths - all but one of them in Germany.

"This shows that Europe's lauded health legislation - one which Russia is being urged to adopt - does not work," consumer watchdog's chief Gennady Onishchenko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The European Commission slammed the move as "disproportionate" and demanded an explanation from Russia, whose vegetable exports from Europe amount to around 600 million euros ($868 million) each year.

At the same time the United Arab Emirates has banned the import of cucumbers from Germany, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands over the scare.

But Spain said its own tests on its cucumbers showed no sign of the Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), which can result in full-blown haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) - a disease that causes bloody diarrhoea and serious liver damage.

Of the seven cases in Britain, three had HUS and the other four suffered bloody diarrhoea, the Health Protection Agency said.

Officials in the northern German port city of Hamburg, the epicentre of the outbreak, had last week cited imported Spanish cucumbers as the source of the contamination.

But tests on two Spanish cucumbers there this week showed that while they carried dangerous EHEC bacteria, it was not the strain responsible for the current massive contamination, whose toll in Germany rose to 17 after the death of an elderly woman in Hamburg overnight.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Spain, already struggling with a weak economy and high unemployment, would seek compensation over the false allegations.

"Yesterday, it became clear, with the analyses carried out by the Spanish agency for food safety, that there is not the slightest indication that the origin of the serious infection is any Spanish product," he said in an interview with Spanish national radio.

"Therefore, I would have liked a clearer reaction from the (European) Commission.

"Now we have a very ambitious task ahead of us, which is to recover our good reputation as soon as possible and the trade in all Spanish products."

Spain will also "seek reparations before the relevant authorities in Europe for the harm sustained," he said, after the European Commission lifted its warning over Spanish cucumbers.

Spain's fruit and vegetable exporters estimate they have lost more than 200 million euros a week as 150,000 tonnes of produce went unsold in a Europe-wide reaction to the outbreak.

The EU agency in charge of disease prevention confirmed the very rare strain of bacteria behind the infections, identified as STEC serogroup 0104:H4, but noted its source was still under investigation.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Coordinator

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

    Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

    £350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

    Embedded Linux Engineer

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

    Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

    £50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on