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A French farm worker empties cucumbers into a container after failing to sell them due an ongoing food crisis in Europe.
A French farm worker empties cucumbers into a container after failing to sell them due an ongoing food crisis in Europe.
Image: Jacques Brinon/AP/Press Association Images

E. coli outbreak: was it the cucumbers after all?

German health officials say that traces of the deadly bacteria have been found in a discarded cucumber in a town in the east of the country but they’ve already been wrong twice before.
Jun 9th 2011, 10:49 AM 454 0

TRACES OF THE deadly E. coli bacteria that has now claimed the lives of 26 people in Europe have been found on a discarded cucumber in a town in east Germany.

German officials have said that a cucumber was discarded in a waste bin that belonged to a family who became ill in the eastern town of Magdeburg and contained traces of the bacteria, Xinhua news agency reports.

Health Minister for the State of Saxony Anhalt Norbert Bischoff added:

The daughter is still hospitalised, the father did not need to be treated and the mother was in hospital for a short period of time.

The daughter was diagnosed as carrying the dangerous 104 strain of the illness.

He added that it was not known where the bacteria had come from and the origin of the cucumber could not be confirmed, providing few answers to a mystery that has puzzled German authorities.

Claims that the outbreak was caused by Spanish cucumbers were quickly dismissed, but not before it angered the Spanish, furious that the outbreak was being blamed on their produce.

Reports that the bacteria was traced to bean sprouts from a farm near Hamburg also appeared to have been wide of the mark.

The latest development came as officials confirmed yesterday that the outbreak had claimed two more victims with German health minister Daniel Bahr saying that 26 people had now died since the start of May – 25 in Germany and one in Sweden.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s national disease control centre, reported 300 more E. coli cases yesterday, raising the total to 2,648.

Nearly 700 of those victims are hospitalised with a serious complication that can cause kidney failure. Another 100 E. coli cases are in other European countries and the United States.

More than €200 million has been pledged by the European Commission to help farmers whose trade has been hit by the fallout from the E. coli outbreak.

Germany is facing widespread criticism for the outbreak and for its perceived failure to spot the pattern of illnesses as well as twice identifying the cause only for the eventual proof to show otherwise.

- additional reporting from AP

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Hugh O'Connell

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