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Minister calls for products to be withdrawn from sale, but admits 'no definitive link' to illness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Mr Lefebvre called on Friday for the company's mustard and rocket seed sprouts to be withdrawn from sale while an analysis was conducted.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
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
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

    Recruitment Genius: Photo Booth Host

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company offers London's best photo booth ...

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers



    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

    £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'