News / Europe

Bean Sprouts Confirmed as E. Coli Source

A woman holds bean sprouts with chopsticks in Berlin, Germany, June 5, 2011
A woman holds bean sprouts with chopsticks in Berlin, Germany, June 5, 2011

European officials says they have confirmed that bean sprouts were the source of Europe's deadly E. coli outbreak.

Authorities Saturday said the contaminated sprouts were traced to an organic farm in northern Germany, near Hamburg. They said results of lab tests on sprouts from the farm confirmed they carried the strain of bacteria responsible for the infections. The farm has been closed by public health officials.

At least 33 people have died and around 3,000 others have been sickened since the outbreak began last month.  All but one of the deaths and the majority of those infected have been in Germany.

Health officials initially blamed the bacterial infection on Spanish cucumbers and other vegetables and then spread the blame to other European countries, costing EU farmers millions of dollars as produce was left to rot in fields and warehouses.  Russia, one of the EU's largest markets for produce, had initiated a ban but Friday said it would lift it.

German authorities lifted the warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce on Friday but said the crisis is not over and people should not eat bean sprouts.

Russia gave no specific timeframe for resuming vegetable imports from the European Union.  Russian officials said it will depend on how quickly the EU sends documents certifying the vegetables' safety.  The EU has promised to send the certificates in the next two days.

E. coli symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and in extreme cases, kidney failure and death.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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