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Bean sprouts likely cause of E.coli outbreak

Bean sprouts likely cause of E.coli outbreak German farm closed for investigation

Contaminated bean sprouts from a German farm are thought to be the cause of the E. coli outbreak in Europe.

The farm, which grows a variety of bean sprouts, is located in Uelzen, south of Hamburg and near the centre of the outbreak in Germany. The seeds used to grow the sprouts come from a number of countries.

Gert Lindemann, the state agricultural secretary for Lower Hamburg, said: "Further evidence has emerged which points to a plant nursery in Uelzen as the source of the EHEC cases, or at least one of the sources."

Alfalfa, mung bean, radish and rocket sprouts grown at the farm may also be at risk from contamination.

Mr Lindemann said that the bacteria thrive at the same temperature used for growing sprouts. Test results due sometime today are expected to confirm that the farm and sprouts are the source of the outbreak which has affected 12 countries.

To date, the E.coli 0104 bacterium has caused the deaths of 22 people in Europe, with more than 2,200 ill.

The unique bacterial strain is particularly virulent, causing bloody diarrhoea and haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) in many of those infected. HUS is a life threatening complication which can cause kidney damage.

Initially, contaminated Spanish cucumbers were thought to be behind the outbreak, and then suspicions fell on a local restaurant in the region. However, it is suspected that the bean sprouts might have been incorporated into a number of foods.

Although there were signs the outbreak may be on the wane, German Health Minister Daniel Bahr said that it was too early to be sure.

"We still have to expect more cases of HUS. We continue to recommend that people do not eat raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce in northern Germany," he said.

This article was published on Mon 6 June 2011

Image © Xuejun li -

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