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Spain Cucumbers Blamed for German E.Coli Outbreak, 3 Deaths

May 27 (Bloomberg) -- German health authorities traced a national outbreak of E.coli that has killed three people and infected 273 others to imports of Spanish cucumbers.

Hamburg’s Institute for Hygiene and Health detected the bacterium in probes of cucumbers imported from Spain, the Hamburg government said on its website. Wholesalers and retailers including Metro AG and Rewe Group have taken Spanish cucumbers off shelves, the companies said.

The European Commission said in a statement that two batches of organic cucumbers from Spain have been identified as sources of the outbreak, and a batch from the Netherlands is also being investigated. It said a total of 18 cases of infection have also occurred in Sweden, Denmark, the U.K. and the Netherlands.

The regional government of Andalusia, where the Spanish producers are located, has taken measures to stop the sale of products from the lots that were identified, Spain’s Health Ministry said in an e-mailed statement. The ministry didn’t identify the companies.

“As of today there is no proof that the contamination happened in the country of origin,” Spanish Agriculture Minister Rosa Aguilar told reporters today.

Complaint to EU

Spain has complained to the European Union because of the way Germany reported the outbreak, DPA reported, citing the ministry. The German authorities informed the press first and not the European Union authorities, the news agency cited Josep Puxeu, secretary of state for rural and water issues, as saying.

Spain is Europe’s biggest food exporter, selling 190,000 tons of cucumbers to Germany last year, the Financial Times Deutschland reported today.

The World Health Organization said today by e-mail that 276 people have been infected in Germany, with three fatalities. There have been no cases of the infection in Spain, and “the consumption of this vegetable should continue as usual, with the normal precautions,” the Spanish Health Ministry said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Holger Elfes in Dusseldorf at helfes@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net.

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