Deadly E.coli detected on sprouts for the first time

09:57, June 11, 2011      

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A notice warning consumers not to eat raw bean sprouts is seen at a market in Berlin, capital of Germany, June 10, 2011. The German authority said on Friday bean sprouts were probably the source of the E. coli outbreak, which has killed 30 people and infected about 3,000 around the world. Reinhard Burger, president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national disease control center said the Robert Koch Institute was lifting its warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce but keeping the warning in place for the sprouts. (Xinhua/Ma Ning)

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia said Friday it detected for the first time the deadly E.coli strain o104 on bean sprouts, after they were named the source of the outbreak by Germany's national disease control centre.

"According to our knowledge, the bean sprouts are coming from the recent suspicious farm in Bienenbuettel in the state of Lower Saxony," said Johannes Remmel, consumer protection minister.

The sprouts were found in an opened package which had been left in a dustbin of a family, living near the city of Bonn. Two of the family members had eaten the sprouts and contracted the E. coli infection in mid-May, he said.

"The discovery confirms our current warning against the consumption of bean sprouts. It is therefore becoming increasingly more likely that bean sprouts are the source of the E.coli infections," Remmel said.

The news came after Reinhard Burger, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said in the morning bean sprouts were the source for the outbreak based on a epidemiological investigation.

"People who ate (bean) sprouts were found nine times more likely to have bloody diarrhoea or other signs of E. coli infection than those who did not," he said

However, no sample tests had found the o104 strain on bean sprouts when he announced that conclusion. Laboratory tests have shown Germany made mistakes in identifying the outbreak source on two previous occasions.

At the same time, RKI lifted the warning against cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.

"Enjoy lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. They are healthy for you," said Andreas Hensel, president of the German Federal Risk Assessment Institute (BFR), which is a co-leader in the action against E. coli.

In the city of Hamburg, an epicentre for the disease, farmers protested in the city centre by offering tons of lettuce and cucumbers for free to anyone who wanted them when the news was announced. Suddenly, pedestrians turned from reluctant to eager takers, reported local news agency DPA.

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