Lifestyle & Belief

EU to hold crisis talks over E. coli outbreak


A lab technician holds a bacteria culture that shows a positive infection of enterohemorrhagic E. coli, also known as the EHEC bacteria, from a patient at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf on June 2, 2011 in Hamburg, Germany. German health authorities are continuing to grapple with the current outbreak of EHEC.


Sean Gallup

EU agriculture ministers are to hold emergency talks over the E. coli outbreak centered on Germany that has killed 23 people, the source of which remains a mystery.

The emergency summit, to be held Tuesday in Luxembourg, will address financial aid for fruit and vegetable farmers hit by plummeting sales due to consumer fears over the E. coli outbreak. Ministers are expected to reach a provisional agreement on a compensation package for farmers.

The ministers will also review the European Union’s food safety alert system to ensure that warnings have "scientific basis and proof" before being made public, EU health commissioner John Dalli said.

Dalli said the alert system review was requested by Spain, where farmers were hit hard after Spanish cucumbers were initially falsely blamed as the source of the outbreak, the Guardian reports.

The agriculture ministers are also expected to discuss a Russian ban on imports of fresh produce from the EU, introduced in response to the outbreak.

Efforts are continuing to trace the source of the E. coli outbreak after the first tests on organic bean sprouts from a German farm, suspected of being the source, were negative. The first 23 of 40 samples from the farm in Uelzen, south of Hamburg, tested negative, officials said.

More than 2,200 people in 12 countries have fallen ill in the outbreak, with most of the cases occurring in Germany or among people who have traveled to Germany. Hundreds of people affected by the E. coli bacterium have developed the potentially fatal hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which can cause kidney failure.

The aggressive strain of enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) involved in the outbreak is normally transmitted through feces or fecal bacteria.