Egypt denies fenugreek-German E coli link
Jul 1, 2011, 15:23 GMT
Cairo/Berlin - Egypt on Friday dismissed as untrue European reports that fenugreek seeds from Egypt were a suspected source of a deadly E coli outbreak.
'These claims are sheer lies, which have no scientific basis,' Egyptian Agriculture Minister Ayman Abu Hadeed was quoted in the state-run al-Ahram daily as saying.
'The strain of E coli in Europe is not found in Egypt. Secondly, all Egyptian farm produce and exports undergo complicated measures to be approved as fit for human consumption in line with international standards,' he added.
Most of the 49 deaths, blamed on E coli, so far have been linked to sprouts grown from either radishes, mung beans or fenugreek at the garden, Gaertnerhof, in the German town of Bienenbuettel.
Gert Hahne, an official of Lower Saxony state in Germany, said Friday that the Gaertnerhof had bought some of the suspect Egyptian fenugreek seeds from a merchant.
On Thursday, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm said a 2010 consignment of fenugreek seeds from Egypt was under suspicion as the cause.
Scientists say the bacteria can live in the seeds and re-emerge when they germinate and are eaten in salad.
'The Egyptian link reinforces the impression that sprouts were the source of the epidemic,' said Hahne.
But scientists warned that this was still not proof that the deadly strain had come from Egypt.
Investigators say the crops were most likely contaminated with the germ when they were sprayed, either with polluted water or liquid manure.
'Despite being a big consumer of fenugreek seeds for thousands of years, Egypt has not recorded a single case of E coli infection,' said Farouk Hamed of the Cairo-based Agricultural Research Centre. 'If the producing country itself has no E Coli incidence, how can it be the origin of the disease?' he added.
Meanwhile, officials in the northern city of Paderborn ordered 800 people, including all the children at a primary school, to undergo tests after eating sandwiches sold at a butcher's shop. One employee at the shop is known to have fallen ill from E coli.
Three of the schoolchildren were stated to be in serious condition in hospital, while 14 caught the germ but had no serious symptoms. The school was closed.
Read more about Egypt