EHEC: Cities prohibit the sale of Spanish cucumbers

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Cities and regions prohibit the sale of Spanish cucumbers that have not been tested for EHEC bacteria

Due to the high EHEC infection wave, the first cities and regions are taking drastic measures and prohibiting the course of Spanish cucumbers in the wholesale and retail trade. For example, the city of Duisburg has issued a decree prohibiting all vegetables and businesses from selling Spanish cucumbers. The green cucumbers are strongly suspected of transporting the EHEC germ. The city relies on a decree by the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Consumer Protection. Anyone who now sells raw cucumbers without first being tested for the EHEC germ will be punished. Not only retailers or importers are affected by these strict conditions, but also restaurants, snack bars, canteens and all other food businesses.

Traders have to pay for the EHEC test themselves
"Such a test is far too expensive for us small greengrocers," says an affected retailer who is already complaining about the massive losses in recent days. Because the costs are not borne by the health department or the city administration, but must be paid out of your own pocket. Therefore, according to a spokesman for the authorities, the retailers should prefer to take the vegetables out of the trade and dispose of them properly. It is likely that the cucumbers will no longer be bought anyway, even if they have been tested.

The NRW Ministry of Consumer Protection today issued a comprehensive catalog of immediate measures to curb EHEC infections and to advance research into the causes. "There is currently no evidence that vegetables from NRW are the causal source or vegetables from NRW are contaminated with EHEC germs. However, in order to guarantee the greatest possible security for consumers, we have now issued a comprehensive package of measures. Our goal must be to find and close all possible and conceivable sources, ”said Consumer Protection Minister Johannes Remmel.

Measures taken by the Ministry of Consumer Protection 1st decree: Due to the confirmed contamination of Spanish cucumbers with EHEC germs, the NRW Ministry of Consumer Affairs decreed that only such Spanish cucumbers may be sold, distributed and further processed if a certificate attests that they are free from exposure to EHEC. The establishments in question are not only importers, wholesalers and retailers, but also restaurants, snack bars and facilities for public catering and, if necessary, other establishments. The local food control offices were instructed to implement this decree as soon as possible. The decree is to be observed immediately.

2. Recommendation: Since there is no certainty as to whether other types of vegetables besides Spanish cucumbers are not affected and contaminated, the facilities for communal catering (canteens), the restaurants and snack bars are also strongly recommended to generally refrain from offering raw food, as long as your upstream supplier cannot confirm that the goods are free of EHEC - or the cause of the current disease is clearly clarified. This recommendation also applies to all other consumers.

3. Preventive control: In order to be able to ensure that no contaminated goods are sold by the North Rhine-Westphalian wholesale markets, all wholesale markets are checked and samples are taken for testing for EHEC. Sampling will focus on cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes.

4. Coordination: A crisis team, the State Control Center for Food and Feed Safety (LaKoLF), was activated at the State Environment Agency (Lanuv), which collects and evaluates all relevant information and maintains close contact with the municipalities.

A nationwide test of the vegetable suppliers was prepared yesterday as part of the research into the causes. The irrigation systems from surface water should be analyzed in detail. It is currently not possible to say when the first results will be available.

Is a bio-weapon attack also an option?
However, since the dangerous EHEC bacterium was found not only on Spanish, but now also on Dutch cucumbers, the route of infection is still not clearly proven. Some researchers no longer completely rule out a “biological weapons terrorist attack” with the help of EHEC bacteria modified in the laboratory. The laboratory for the haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) ordered by the Robert Koch Institute at the Institute for Hygiene at the University Hospital Münster (UKM) has identified the EHEC type of the strain. According to the scientists, this is the EHEC type "HUSEC 41" of the sequence type ST678. Because this combination is very rare, it was quickly possible to combine "that patient samples from four different cities had to be the same strain". "This is one of 42 representative EHEC types from the HUSEC collection, which the Institute of Hygiene together with colleagues at the Robert Koch Institute in Wernigerode has established from 588 EHEC strains of patients with HUS from 1996 to 2011" explains Helge Karch, director of the institute in Münster, which is also resistant to penicillin and antibiotics.

Since this very rare combination occurred in patients from four different cities, some virologists now suspect that the infection could also be a deliberately forced attack. So far, the official side has not confirmed or commented on a "bioterror thesis". (sb)

More EHEC articles:
EHEC: No raw fruits and vegetables for pregnant women
EHEC causes: On the trail of the pathogen
Symptoms of an EHEC infection
First deaths from EHEC infections
No antibiotic at EHEC
Mysterious infections caused by EHEC pathogens

Gerd Altmann / dauni ( /

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