Officials investigate restaurant where 18 E.coli victims dined

A party of tax officials and a group of Danish tourists fell ill after eating there; one has died

The search for clues to the source of the E.coli outbreak which has killed 19 Europeans and infected more than 1,700 worldwide was concentrated yesterday on a restaurant in the northern German town of Lübeck.

Some 18 people, including Danish tourists and a party of tax officials, fell ill after eating there. One has since died, and two others are in a critical condition.

It is not thought the eatery is directly to blame for any contamination, but, according to Werner Solbach, a microbiologist at the University Medical Centre Schleswig-Holstein: "The supply chain could give us important clues about how the pathogen was passed along."

If it is possible to track down where the restaurant obtained its salad, fruit and vegetables, then the source of the mutant E.coli bacteria might be found. This has so far eluded health officials. Efforts to identify the source of the outbreak have been complicated by the fact that salads include a variety of ingredients from different producers and, often, different countries.

Joachim Berger, proprietor of the Kartoffel-Keller (Potato Cellar) said last night he was devastated to hear that many of his guests had been struck down by the virulent bacteria. "It was like a blow to the head when I heard the news," he said. "We had everyone here tested and everything was disinfected. I paid for the tests myself because safety is important for our guests and employees."

But the Lübecker Nachrichten newspaper reported that scientists had identified the restaurant as a possible spot where the bug was passed on.

The German tax officials who fell ill after eating there belonged to a group of 34 female officials who were attending a trade-union seminar in the port city of Lübeck from 12 to 14 May. At least eight of them became infected with the E.coli bacteria after eating a meal on 13 May in the Kartoffel-Keller, which specialises in potato dishes. Many of those infected have developed haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS), a potentially deadly complication that affects the kidneys. One of the women who contracted HUS died last Monday. The condition of two of the women is critical and a third needs daily kidney dialysis.

The group has been questioned extensively by investigators from Germany's Robert Koch Institute, which is trying to trace the pathogen. The women are reported to have told the Robert Koch team that they ate mostly salad – cucumbers and tomatoes. Hence, German official health warnings against eating such vegetables.

Mr Berger told Reuters: "We had a group of women here from the tax authorities and they ate à la carte. They enjoyed their meal. But the group was in town for quite a few days and also ate elsewhere. None of our employees is sick. No diarrhoea. And they all eat salad and everything we have here."

Mr Berger said his main food supplier was based in the city of Mölln, which is between Hamburg and Lübeck. He said his restaurant was "booked out – thank God", when the IoS spoke to him yesterday evening.

While Germany is at the centre of the outbreak, people have become ill in 10 other European countries and the United States, probably from eating lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers or other raw salad vegetables in Germany. Other places where people have fallen ill include Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Britain has 11 cases, all of whom are German or have recently visited that country. The food contamination is believed to have been caused by poor hygiene at a farm, in transit, or at a shop or food outlet.

The National Farmers Union warned that vegetable producers could see prices slump as salad produce went unwanted on the Continent and flooded the UK market. The NFU has held talks with supermarkets to ensure they pay British farmers "a price that reflects the quality of the product". Morrisons said it did not import any salad vegetables from Germany, while Tesco said it imports only cauliflower from the country. Waitrose said the majority of its vegetables are home-grown, so are not affected.

E.coli normally lives harmlessly in our gut, but this strain has the ability to stick to intestinal walls where it pumps out toxins, sometimes causing severe bloody diarrhoea and kidney problems. Many patients have needed intensive care, including dialysis due to the kidney complications. The World Health Organisation said the strain was rare, had been seen in humans before but never in this kind of outbreak.

Suggested Topics
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing

Other places that have held independence referendums
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

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
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
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

    IT Portfolio Analyst - Prince2

    £45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a glob...

    Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

    £20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    Head of Maths

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week