Death toll from German E. coli outbreak rises

At least 27 people dead and more than 2,800 sickened from rare strain of bacteria, but source is still unknown.

    Farmers across Europe have suffered losses in sales of exports due to the outbreak [Reuters]

    The death toll from the outbreak of E. coli in Germany has risen to at least 27, health officials have said, as authorities struggle to determine the source of the bacteria.

    The Robert Koch Institute, Germany's national health centre, said on Thursday that another two peole had died, taking the death toll in the country to 26 people, in addition to a Swedish woman, who had travelled to Germany, who died in her homeland.

    The AFP news agency reported that the death toll had reached 30 but did not clarify the source.

    More than 2,800 people in at least 14 countries have been sickened by the strain of bacteria, which is believed to have originated in Germany.

    On Wednesday, Daniel Bahr, the German health minister, said he thought the worst of the crisis was over and that the rate of new infections was slowing down.

    Authorities are expecting results from a bean sprout farm in Germany, which officials pinpointed as a possible source of the outbreak.

    Meanwhile, Spanish farmers who have had their exports hit by the crisis have received help from the German government in reparing their image.

    Spanish cucumbers were falsely blamed for being the cause of the outbreak, delivering a significant blow to vegetable producers in the country.

    "The German government has agreed to make an effort to improve the image of Spanish produce in Germany," Diego Lopez Garrido, Spain's minister for Europe, said in Berlin after talks with his German counterpart Werner Hoyer.

    "Twenty-five per cent of our vegetable exports are to Germany, it is our most important export market. Therefore it is also the duty of the German government to assist us with promotion."

    Lopez Garrido described as "unfortunate" a false alarm by Hamburg's top health official two weeks ago blaming Spanish cucumbers.

    European Union farmers say that since the warning over E. coli went out, they have been losing up to $611m a week as ripe produce rots in fields and warehouses.

    On Wednesday, the EU said it would offer farmers compensation of up to $306m for the E. coli losses, though a final decision will not be made until next week.

    Russia and Saudi Arabia have issued a blanket ban on vegetable imports from the EU.

    Bahr said Germany would continue its warning against eating raw tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and various sprouts until the cause of the contamination was located.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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