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E. coli outbreak traced to German farm as EU ministers to meet to discuss crisis

Europe’s Agriculture ministers will meet on Tuesday to discuss he outbreak as German officials pinpoint its source.

Bean sprouts have been identified as the likely cause of the outbreak (File photo)
Bean sprouts have been identified as the likely cause of the outbreak (File photo)
Image: Gero Breloer/AP/Press Association Images

A FARM IN Northern Germany has been identified by officials as the most likely source of the E. coli outbreak that has so far killed 22 people in Europe.

As it was yesterday confirmed that bean sprouts were the likely cause of the outbreak, it is reported today that a farm in Uelzen, just south of Hamburg, has been identified as the likely source with German officials awaiting test results for conclusive proof.

BBC News reports that the farm has been closed and that Germans have been advised to stop eating bean sprouts which are commonly used in salads.

Separately, EU agriculture ministers will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss the outbreak and its effects.

The European Commission has said it will ask states to back special compensation for farmers whose sales of fresh produce have evaporated because of the outbreak, RTÉ News reports.

This strain of E. coli has so far killed 22 people, 21 in Germany and one in Sweden, and left more than 2,000 people ill across Europe.

German hospitals are reported to have been overwhelmed by the number of cases of E. coli.

The agriculture minister in the German state of Lower Saxony, Gert Lindemann, said that he all the offending farm’s produce had been recalled, including fresh herbs, fruits, flowers and potatoes.

Two of its employees were also infected with E. coli.

It is believed that 18 different sprout mixtures from the farm were under suspicion, including sprouts of mung beans, broccoli, peas, chickpeas, garlic lentils and radishes.

As for how the sprouts became contaminated, Lindemann noted that they are grown with steam in barrels at 38 degrees celsius which is an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply.

Lindemann said it is possible that the water was contaminated with E. coli or that the sprout seeds — purchased in Germany and other countries — contained the germ.

He said the farmers had not used any manure, which is commonly spread on organic farms and has been known to cause E. coli outbreaks.

- additional reporting from AP

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Hugh O'Connell

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