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.

bur/fc/co

 

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
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

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

    £17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

    SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

    £450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone