Media interest in the recent E.coli outbreak in Germany may have diminished slightly but the effects still continue to cause health and economic impacts across Europe. Initially, as reported in this blog back in May, German authorities believed that Spanish cucumbers and other salad items were the source of the outbreak. However, more recent developments in this news story has traced, and now confirmed, the source to be vegetable sprouts from an organic farm in Lower Saxony, Northern Germany.
The farm had cultivated sprouts from a variety of products including azuki beans, mung beans, fenugreek, alfalfa and lentils. It has now been closed and all its products recalled but the effect on the economy has been massive. According to the Consumer Affairs Minister, about 5,900 tonnes of cucumbers, 1,300 hectares of lettuce and 3,500 tonnes of tomatoes have had to be destroyed as a result of the initial belief of the source. This has all but brought the Spanish vegetable exporters to a standstill. In an effort to reduce the effect of the food scare, the European Commission has offered 210m euros (£186m; $303m) to European farmers who have seen a dramatic loss of income since the outbreak started in early May.
Health effects continue to rise with up to 44 deaths and over 3,000 people affected. The new strain of the bacteria has proven resistant to antibiotics and produces a toxin which is extremely potent. Complications arising from infection include neurological disorders leading to paralysis and fatalities have been attributed to Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) which is a failure of the renal system (kidneys).
German authorities have lifted their warnings on eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. UK authorities including the Food Standards Agency maintain their position on encouraging businesses to undertake safe food hygiene practices by washing and, where possible, peeling raw fruit and vegetables. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has confirmed that this outbreak has been the most serious of its kind, recorded in the world, to date.