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Europe battling E. coli outbreak


May 30, 2011
By The Canadian Press

Topics

ecoliMay
30, 2011, Vienna, Austria – Austrian officials are inspecting supermarkets for
Spanish vegetables suspected of contamination with a potentially fatal bacteria
that has sickened hundreds of Europeans.

May
30, 2011, Vienna, Austria – Austrian officials are inspecting supermarkets for
Spanish vegetables suspected of contamination with a potentially fatal bacteria
that has sickened hundreds of Europeans.

In
Germany, the death toll from the outbreak rose to 11.

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Spain,
meanwhile, went on the defensive, saying there was no proof that the E. coli
outbreak has been caused by Spanish vegetables.

Spain’s
Secretary of State for European Affairs, Diego Lopez Garrido, said Madrid might
take action against those pointing fingers at his southern European nation.

“You
can’t attribute the origin of this sickness to Spain,” Lopez Garrido told
reporters in Brussels. “There is no proof and that’s why we are going to demand
accountability from those who have blamed Spain for this matter.”

Austrian
authorities sent inspectors to 33 organic supermarkets to make sure Spanish
vegetables suspected of contamination have been taken off shelves. The move
came after a recall and sales ban of cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplants that
originated in Spain and were delivered to stores in Austria by German
companies.

“If
anything is found to be left over, it will be tested and taken off the market,”
Austrian Health Ministry spokesman Fabian Fusseis said.

While
two German tourists have tested positive for enterohaemorrhagic
E.coli
, also known as EHEC, no so-called homegrown cases have been reported, he
added.

In
Germany, where the death toll has risen to 11, officials said even though they
know that Spanish cucumbers tainted with EHEC have carried the bacteria, they
still have not been able to determine the exact source.

“We
have found the so-called EHEC pathogens on cucumbers, but that does not mean
that they are responsible for the whole outbreak,” Andreas Hensel, president of
Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, said on ZDF television.

Spanish
Health Minister Leire Pajin, noting that no Spanish cases have been reported,
urged Germany to speed up its probe and establish proof of what has caused the
outbreak. Germany’s allegations “create alarm and affect the producers of a
country without any evidence,” she said.

In
Poland, officials say that a woman has been hospitalized in serious condition
after returning from a trip to the northern German city of Hamburg, where at
least 467 cases of intestinal infection have been recorded.

Authorities
say those included 91 cases of the more severe hemolytic uremic syndrome, but
the officials note that the number of new diarrhea cases was declining. HUS is
a rare complication arising from infection associated with the E. coli
bacterium.

Czech
officials said tests on 120 potentially tainted Spanish cucumbers pulled off
shelves are expected to be concluded in two days. No illnesses have been
reported.

In
Italy, meanwhile, the country’s paramilitary Carabinieri tainted food squad has
been on the lookout for any contaminated cucumbers, checking imports from
Spain, the Netherlands and other European countries. So far, lab analyses have
come back negative, and no cases of food poisoning have been reported.

Still,
Italy’s agriculture lobby, Coldiretti, urged Italians to support their local
growers to avoid imports.

Currently,
Italian supermarkets are full of peaches, apricots, cherries and plums from
Spain. As for pickles and cucumbers, Italy imported some eight million
kilograms (17 million pounds) from Spain last year.

EU
spokesman Frederic Vincent says that two greenhouses in Spain that were
identified as the source of the contaminated cucumbers have ceased activities.
The water and soil there are being analyzed to see whether they were the
problem, and the results are expected later this week, said Vincent.

The
EU notified member states of the source of the outbreak, which has affected
primarily the Hamburg area of Germany and, to a lesser extent, Sweden, Denmark,
the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, according to Vincent.