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Dangerous e.coli seeds still on sale

Officials are warning people not to grow or eat their own sprouts as infected seeds are thought to still be in circulation.

An Egyptian spice dealer displays fenugreek seeds at his shop in Cairo, Egypt
An Egyptian spice dealer displays fenugreek seeds at his shop in Cairo, Egypt
Image: Nasser Nasser/AP/Press Association Images

THE FENUGREEK SEEDS that have been blamed for the deadly E.coil outbreak in Europe are still on sale, officials said today.

The European Food Safety Authority confirmed that one lot of contaminated seeds was from Egypt and was probably the source of the outbreak in France and Germany.

However the EFSA said that about 15,000 kilograms of the seeds were imported to one large German distributor, which were then sold on to 70 different companies.

54 of these companies were in Germany while they were then sold on to another 16 companies in 11 different European countries.

Fenugreek seeds are sold dried and if they do contain E.coli, the bacteria can survive for years.

Fenugreek seeds can be sprouted in water – and it is when they sprout that they can be tested to see if significant quantities of bacteria are present.

The seeds have not yet been traced back to the specific places they were sold to and one scientist told the Associated Press that it would be difficult to find the culprit bacteria on the seeds.

The report said it was possible other lots of fenugreek seeds from the same Egyptian exporter might also be contaminated.

Some infected seeds may still in be in the food chain.

Health officials are warning that there may be further E.coli outbreaks if tainted fenugreek seeds are still for sale.

People are being advised not to grow or eat their own sprouts and to thoroughly cook sprouts before eating them.

Some suspect there have been numerous undetected E. coli cases in Europe. “Most people who get this won’t get that ill and it won’t be diagnosed,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia.

He said that the outbreaks were caught because there were large numbers of people getting sick at the same time and in unusual circumstances. But if people bought and ate infected sprouts on their own their illness might be missed.

So far, 51 people have died as a result of contracting E.coli, with 851 people developing complications.

- AP

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