Germany probes sprouts as possible bacteria source

German authorities conducted tests Monday on locally-grown sprouts suspected of being the source of an E. coli outbreak which has killed 22 and left some 2,000 ill across Europe.

Gert Lindermann, agriculture minister in the northern state of Lower-Saxony, announced Sunday that a link had been found between a small farm producing a variety of sprouts and "all the main outbreaks" of the disease in the country.

But federal Health Minister Daniel Bahr and the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's main health institute, warned against rushing to judgement.

"For the time being we are careful not to rush to premature judgments," Bahr said on television.

Germany last week was strongly criticized by Spain's government after officials in Hamburg warned the outbreak might be linked to cucumbers imported from Spain.

"We have clear indications that a farm in the district of Uelzen is a likely source of the contamination, but we must first wait for the results of the laboratory tests," Bahr added.

Andreas Hensel, head of Germany's federal Risk Assessment Institute, said that "we can't be sure that the sprouts are responsible".

News of the possible breakthrough came about a month after people were first infected in northern Germany.

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

The death toll has climbed to 22, according to latest figures by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

All but one of the deaths occurred in Germany. The other was in Sweden.

Initial tests from a farm producing the sprouts showed contamination by the bacteria, Lindermann told a news conference.

Sprouts cultivated there include those from lettuce, azuki beans, mung beans, fenugreek, alfafa and lentils. Some of the seeds had been imported from abroad.

"It is significant that two women employees from the firm are ill with diarrhoea, and in one case EHEC (a strain of E. coli) has been diagnosed," Lindermann said.

Early indications are that the farm "is at least one of the sources of contamination," he added.

The sprouts grow in temperatures of 37 degrees celsius (around 98 degrees Fahrenheit) "which is ideal for all bacteria," the minister said.

The farm is in the village of Bienenbuettel, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Hamburg, one of the main cities hit by the outbreak.

Authorities in Lower-Saxony said the sprouts were delivered, either directly or through wholesalers, to restaurants in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pomerania, Hessen and Lower-Saxony itself.

Further test results were expected to be announced Monday or Tuesday.

The European Commission meanwhile said it had not formally been notified of the development.

"The German authorities simply said on Sunday they were going to circulate the information about their suspicions surrounding a sprout-producing firm on the rapid alert system system for food," said spokesman Federic Vincent.

Bahr, who on Sunday visited Hamburg's Eppendorf University clinic where many patients are being treated, has warned the source could still be active.

"Food health officials are working around the clock to identify the source of the infection," Bahr said.

"But from earlier outbreaks, we know that we can't always identify the source.

"It can't be ruled out that the source of infection is still active," he added, calling for continued vigilance as authorities still counsel against eating raw tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers.

Bahr said also the situation in a number of hospitals, especially Hamburg and Bremen, was "difficult" because of the high number of admissions.

E. coli cases have also been reported in around a dozen countries, including Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and the United States. Each was related to German travel.

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



Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

    £23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

    Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

    £14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower