German bean sprout farm identified as ground zero in E coli outbreak
German-grown bean sprouts are the likely source of the deadliest E coli outbreak in modern history, according to agricultural officials.
The outbreak, which has killed 22 people and made more than 2,000 ill across Europe, is thought to have originated at an organic farm in northern Germany.
Lower Saxony's agriculture minister, Gert Lindemann, said tests had shown the bean sprouts were the probable cause.
Mr Lindemann said that different kinds of sprouts from a farm in the greater Uelzen area between Hamburg and Hanover could be traced to infected people in five German states.
He said the farm was shut down yesterday and all of its produce - including fresh herbs, fruits, flowers and potatoes - recalled. He also urged Germans to not eat bean sprouts until further notice.
He said: "There were more and more indications that put the focus on this farm."
At least one of the farm's employees was also infected with the E coli bacteria, Mr Lindemann added.
The nursery grows a wide variety of bean sprouts from seeds imported from different countries. The bean sprouts include adzuki, alfalfa, broccoli peas, lentils and mung beans, all grown in the nursery for consumption in salads.
The head of Germany's national disease control centre last night raised the death toll to 22 - 21 people in Germany and one in Sweden - and said another 2,153 people in Germany were ill from the bacteria. That figure includes 627 people who have developed a rare, serious complication that can cause kidney failure.
The World Health Organisation said ten other European countries and the US have reported a total of 90 victims.
There are currently 11 people in the UK with food poisoning linked to the toxic E coli outbreak. Eight have bloody diarrhoea and three are being treated for haemolytic uraemic syndrome - a deadly complication of E coli.
All are from, or have visited, northern Germany.
Germany had previously blamed Spanish cucumbers for the bug.
This outbreak is thought to be the deadliest in recent history and is one of the biggest.
In 1996, 12 people died during a Japanese outbreak, while seven died in a Canadian outbreak in 2000.
The strain is known to be resistant to many antibiotics, making treatment difficult.
Health experts have urged people to follow good hygiene, including washing hands after using the toilet and before touching food.
In the UK, the Health Protection Agency is urging people returning from Germany with an illness, including bloody diarrhoea, to seek medical attention.
SOURCE of E coli outbreak has been identified as bean sprouts from an organic farm in the greater Uelzen area of northern Germany
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