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EU ministers to hold crisis talks as search for E. coli source goes on

Agriculture ministers will meet in Luxembourg, as tests show a northern Germany bean sprout farm is not to blame.

A French farm worker dumps cucumbers after failing to sell them at market, as the European E. coli scare continues.
A French farm worker dumps cucumbers after failing to sell them at market, as the European E. coli scare continues.
Image: Jacques Brinon/AP

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE Simon Coveney will attend a crisis meeting with his European counterparts in Luxembourg today, as the European Union scrambles to respond to the ongoing E. coli crisis.

The meeting follows the disclosure yesterday that a bean sprout farm in the north German town on Uelzen, just outside Hamburg, was not the source of the new strain of the bug – despite having been the suspected of being its genesis.

Of the 40 samples tested from the farm, 23 tested negative – meaning the farm was ultimately acquitted of being the prime source of the new deadly variant of the E. coli bacterium, although two staff at the farm have fallen ill from the infection.

The results followed reports from an EU laboratory in Rome which said there was no reason to suspect that any vegetable was to blame for the outbreak.

The new strain has so far claimed 22 lives, and also come amid moves from an increasing number of countries elsewhere to ban vegetable imports from the European Union.

Russia and the Lebanon have banned imports from the entire union – despite having escaped the outbreak so far – while Qatar has banned cucumbers, tomatoes and and lettuce from Spain. The UAE, too, has banned cucumbers from Spain, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Those developments are also likely to be discussed heavily at today’s summit in Luxembourg, with Spain demanding total compensation from Germany for the income its farmers lost when Germany wrongfully accused its cucumbers of being the source.

The BBC reports estimates indicating that Spain’s food exporters are losing around €225m each week as a result of the accusations.

23 people have now died as a result of the E. coli outbreak – 22 in Germany and the other in Sweden.

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