EU removes Egyptian seeds from market due to link with E. coli outbreak

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BRUSSELS (BNO NEWS) — The European Union on Tuesday ordered the withdrawal of certain types of seeds from Egypt after they were linked to the E. coli outbreaks in Germany and France.

The EU also temporarily banned Egyptian fenugreek seeds after a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established a link between the outbreak and the North African seeds.


“Tracing back the origins of the E. coli 0104 contaminations in Germany and France has been a key priority for the EU from day one of the crisis,” said John Dalli, EU’s Health and Consumer Commissioner. “The report published today leads us to withdrawing of some Egyptian seeds from the EU market and to a temporary ban on imports of some seeds and beans originating from that country.”

In this way, all lots of fenugreek seeds imported from one Egyptian exporter between 2009 and 2011 were withdrawn from the market and destroyed. The import ban on Egyptian seeds and beans for sprouting will remain in place until October 31.

The EFSA report stressed that the contamination probably occurred before the seeds left the importer but exactly where and how this took place is still unknown. It is believed that it may have occurred during the production or distribution process.

The outbreak was first notified on May 22 by German authorities. Throughout June, tests were performed to identify the source of the contamination which was initially thought to be Spanish cucumbers but it was subsequently ruled out.

On June 23, France notified that people in the Bordeaux area got infected by the E. coli 0104 strain after consuming bean sprouts. Laboratory tests then confirmed that the source was Egyptian seeds, according to EFSA.

This link, nonetheless, does not explain the most recent case in Sweden, the ECDC said, which is currently under investigation and in which no consumption of sprouts has been implicated

The outbreak has so far killed 48 people in Germany and one in Sweden. In addition, at least 4,178 people have fallen ill, nearly all of them in Germany. Dozens of cases have also been reported in the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and other European countries, but most victims recently traveled to Germany

In August 1996, an outbreak of E. coli serotype O157:H7 in Japan sickened at least 9,578 people, most of them children. A total of 11 people died as a result of the outbreak, which was likely caused by radish sprouts.

And in May 2000, seven people were killed and more than 2,300 people were sickened after E. coli strain O157 polluted drinking water in the Canadian town of Walkerton.

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