French lay blame on British seeds for E. coli outbreak

Minister calls for products to be withdrawn from sale, but admits 'no definitive link' to illness

Seeds from one of Britain's biggest mail order seed companies may have been linked to an E. coli outbreak in France, according to claims by Frédéric Lefebvre, the French secretary of state for consumer affairs.

He suggested that seed sprouts sold by the British company Thompson & Morgan were linked to eight suspected cases of E. coli poisoning in Bordeaux, south-western France. Thompson & Morgan said it sold "thousands of packets of seeds and has had no reported problems".

While officials said tests showed two people were infected by the same strain of E. coli as that found recently in Germany, they have not said whether there is a link between the two outbreaks.

Mr Lefebvre called on Friday for the company's mustard and rocket seed sprouts to be withdrawn from sale while an analysis was conducted. But he stressed that "the link between the symptoms and eating of the sprouts... has not been definitively established."

The French move was criticised yesterday by Stuart Agnew MEP, Ukip's agricultural spokesman, who said it was "irresponsible". "For the French ministry to even float the idea without hard evidence is like blaming a motor manufacturer for a drunk driver. It is obvious to me that they are trying to divert attention and spread the blame," he said.

Radio France Internationale reported that the outbreak was at an early-learning centre in Begles, a suburb of Bordeaux, where the children had grown the sprouts to use as garnish for soup served at a school fete. Six women and two men, aged between 31 and 78, were admitted to hospital. The mayor of Begles, Noël Mamere, told a French newspaper: "The Ministry of Health has told us that fenugreek, mustard and rocket seeds bought from [the garden centre chain] Jardiland and grown at the early-learning centre were the source of the contamination that resulted in the parents being hospitalised."

Meanwhile the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said yesterday it was "revising its guidance on the consumption of sprouted seeds such as alfalfa, mung beans (usually known as beansprouts) and fenugreek".

"To date, no cases of food poisoning have been reported in the UK linked to the outbreak in France. We are in close contact with the Health Protection Agency which is actively monitoring the situation," a spokesman said. The FSA has asked the French authorities for more information.

Ipswich-based Thompson & Morgan which published its first seed catalogue in 1855 and distributes its products to 163 countries across the world, said: "It is highly unlikely to be the seeds themselves but the way that they were used and handled."

Paul Hansord, the company's managing director, said: "We make sure that everything we do is to a high standard." He said the firm buys its seeds in bulk from suppliers around the world and said the affected seeds may have come from Italy.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'