European leaders held an emergency meeting Tuesday on the E. coli outbreak affecting Europe. Twenty-two people have died, most in Germany, and more than 2,000 others have been made ill.
German authorities initially blamed Spanish cucumbers for the outbreak. Then, German bean sprouts were implicated over the weekend. But tests came back negative for the deadly strain.
European authorities are still looking for the source.
At the E.U. meeting, Francisco Sosa-Wagner, a Spanish member of the European Parliament, stood and waved a cucumber, criticizing how quickly German authorities pointed the finger at Spanish produce.
"I am the grandson of a German," Sosa-Wagner said, "and I love the country, but it's quite clear that the German authorities in this case have rushed in without due caution."
He added that Spanish growers deserve to be compensated for their losses. Spain's fruit and vegetable exporters association estimates that losses are running at more than $250 million a week.
But it's not just Spanish farmers who've been affected by unverified claims. Torsten Riggert owns a farm near the epicentre of the E.coli outbreak around Hamburg. He said it's very hard when your name is on the internet and in the press "and you haven't done anything wrong."
European Health Commissioner John Dalli cautioned against any more unsubstantiated claims.
"It is crucial that national authorities do not rush to give information on the source of infection, which is not proven by bacteriological analysis, as this spreads unjustified fears in the population all over Europe and creates problems for our food producers selling products in the E.U. and outside of the E.U.," Dalli said.
Russia, in fact, has put a blanket ban on all vegetable imports from the European Union.
Dalli said that's not necessary, since the outbreak is largely limited to the areas surrounding the city of Hamburg.
"In the light of this, and also the steps towards the identification of the source, we consider any ban on any product as disproportionate," Dalli said.
European leaders said today they would offer $219 million to compensate to affected farmers.
But for many Spanish growers, who are at the end of their season, that amount may seem like too little, too late.
Then, there are the other businesses involved – the transport sector, and wholesalers, to name two.
As long as Europeans are taking a pass on eating salad for the moment, fewer of those people will be working either.