By Sara Wyant 

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.


BERLIN, June 11— Health officials in Berlin confirmed Friday that bean sprouts grown on an organic farm in northern Germany are the likely source of an E.coli outbreak that has killed at least 31 people and made nearly 3,000 ill since May.


The deadly 0104:H4 strain had been found on bean sprout packaging in the municipality of Bienenbüttel in that state of Lower Saxony. However, officials investigating the farm told Reuters on Saturday they do not expect to take legal action against it for causing an E.coli outbreak that has killed at least 31 people.

“Everything we have looked into until now shows the farm was flawless,” said Gert Hahne, spokesman for the consumer protection office of Lower Saxony state. “It is hygienic and followed all the regulations,” he told Reuters.

Initially, German authorities pointed the finger at Spanish cucumbers, resulting in losses of 225 million euros a week, according to Spanish farmers. Growers of leafy greens, tomotoes and other vegetables in neighboring countries saw sales drop dramatically while the investigation unfolded over the last few weeks. The European Commission has offered 210 million euros in aid to farmers hurt by the outbreak.


Authorities will now investigate how the specific E. coli strain got into the food chain.


The European Commission has also been working to implement an agreement reached Friday at the Russia-EU summit for Russia's lifting its ban on EU vegetable imports and the introduction of a certification system.


The International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA), based in the U.S., tried to reassure consumers that this appears to be a localized event and one that does not affect consumers worldwide. Since sprouts are locally grown and sold, rarely imported or exported, the likelihood of this spreading outside of Germany is very small, the group said in a statement.




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