After quite a bit of flip-flopping about whether lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers or something else might be the source, German health officials concluded today that bean sprouts grown on an organic farm caused the outbreak of a particularly virulent strain of E.coli bacteria. At least 29 people have died, all Germans except for one Swede, says the New York Times, and about 3000 infected. More than 700 have suffered complications.
At a news conference, Reinhard Burger, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, warned that the outbreak was “not yet over” and that “there will be new cases coming up.”
The scare has led to Germans avoiding almost all vegetables and tons being trashed.
The contaminated sprouts were traced to a farm growing organic crops in Bienenbüttel, southeast of Hamburg, where the outbreak has been centered. State authorities in Lower Saxony have ordered the farm to suspend the selling of any of its products; the farm had already pledged to do so, after it “came under suspicion” last Sunday.
According to the Guardian the “breakthrough” in the investigation occurred when people who had fallen ill were found to have eaten at 26 restaurants and cafeterias that received produce from the organic farm:
Andreas Hensel, the head of the country’s risk assessment agency, said: “They even studied the menus, the ingredients, looked at bills and took pictures of the different meals, which they then showed to those who had fallen ill.”
…Burger said it was possible that all the tainted sprouts had been consumed or thrown away by now, but warned that people should not eat sprouts.
Officials have also said that it is still possible that “other nearby farms could be affected because it had not yet been established whether the seeds or the farm’s water had been contaminated.”
Cucumbers from Spain were first, and now mistakenly, singled out as the culprit of the E. coli. Farmers from Spain have demanded compensation after seeing the market for their produce decline drastically. Russia has banned all imports of vegetables from the European Union, leading to a huge outcry from farmers on seeing one of their biggest markets closed.
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