E. coli cucumber scare: Spain angry at German claims


The Andalucian agriculture minister ate a cucumber to show her confidence in the produce

Related Stories

Spain has expressed anger at links being made between Spanish cucumbers and a deadly E. coli outbreak.

The country's agriculture minister said Germany pointed to Spanish cucumbers "without having reliable data".

Meanwhile, German officials have voiced doubts about whether the Spanish cucumbers they are investigating carried the deadly E. coli strain.

The outbreak has led to 16 deaths - 15 in Germany and a woman who died in Sweden after travelling to Germany.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national disease institute, says more than 1,150 people within Germany have been affected by enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, also known as EHEC.

In many instances, the gastrointestinal infection has led to Haemolytic-uraemic Syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney problems and is potentially fatal.

'Domino effect'

The RKI has confirmed 373 cases of HUS in Germany.

Start Quote

We want Germany to provide, without any delay and distractions, the necessary information of its investigation”

End Quote Rosa Aguilar Spanish agriculture minister

German authorities initially pointed to organic cucumbers from Spain.

But Spanish officials have refused to accept the blame, saying it is still unclear exactly when and where the vegetables were contaminated.

Spanish Agriculture Minister Rosa Aguilar said: "We are disappointed by the way Germany handles the situation."

"We want Germany to provide, without any delay and distractions, the necessary information of its investigation so that the European Union can know what is causing the E. coli outbreak."

Speaking at an EU meeting in Hungary, she also said the issue should be treated as a "common problem" and that there should be compensation for Spanish and other European producers affected.

The Netherlands has also said it will ask for compensation.

The president of Spain's fruit and vegetable export federation has urged the government to deal with the outbreak, saying it was costing Spanish exporters $200m (£120m) a week.

Asked which countries had stopped buying Spanish produce, Jorge Brotons was quoted as telling a news conference: "Almost all Europe. There is a domino effect on all vegetables and fruits."

'Outbreak could worsen'

Authorities in Hamburg said four suspect cucumbers found there last week - including three imported from Spain - were carrying EHEC, but not the same kind found in patients.

EC spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen: "We are still getting the full picture"

"As before the source remains unidentified," Hamburg state health minister Cornelia Pruefer-Storcks said.

"Our hope of discovering the source of the cases of severe complications with HUS unfortunately has not been fulfilled by these first results."

She also defended the decision to link the outbreak to Spanish cucumbers last week.

"It would have been irresponsible with this number of ill people to keep quiet about a well-grounded suspicion," she said. "Protecting people's lives is more important than economic interests."

Earlier, a senior German scientist warned that the outbreak could worsen.

"We hope the number of cases will go down but we fear it will worsen," said Oliver Grieve, of the University Medical Centre Schleswig-Holstein, where many victims are being treated.

German authorities have warned people to avoid eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.

In Sweden, authorities said there were 39 suspected E. coli infections, including 15 with HUS.

On Tuesday, Swedish authorities said a woman in her 50s had died in hospital, after being admitted on Sunday following a trip to Germany.

Cases have also been reported in Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK.

Several countries have taken steps to curtail the outbreak, such as banning cucumber imports and removing the vegetables from sale.

Reaction to the cucumber crisis

Country Action


Consumers told not to eat cucumbers, lettuces and raw tomatoes. 1,150 cases of E.coli confirmed; 14 deaths


One death and 36 suspected E. coli infections, linked to travel in northern Germany.


Top European cucumber producer - threatens to seek compensation from the European Union for lost vegetables sales


Ban on all imports of cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh salad from Spain and Germany pending further notice

Czech Republic

Some Spanish-grown cucumbers removed from sale


Some Spanish-grown cucumbers removed from sale


Ban on sale of cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines imported via Germany


Reported to have banned cucumber imports from Spain


Halted all cucumber shipments to Germany


Testing cucumbers for contamination


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I bought three cucumbers in Málaga on Saturday. They are great. I'm an expat and can honestly say Spanish fruit and veg is better than you can get it anywhere in the EU. There is no one suffering any illness here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Safety Tip: wash your hands with soap and dry and then wash the cucumber under cold running clean
    water. Also cut off the dark green skin and dip in Malt vinegar!

    Eat and enjoy!

    Alternatively eat a fried cucumber or fried courgette! Wash and dry before cooking!

    Eat and enjoy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    there have been no reported cases here in Spain. The problem most likely is the result of how they were transported and stored once they left Spain. Germany should be looking at the distributors, NOT the growers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    First, ake advantage of the drop in salad prices. Wash your fruit and veg properly. Then wash your hands nicely with soap like your Mum showed you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    So what about us here in the UK - are we at risk? Should I throw away the cucumber in my fridge? What are our supermarkets doing? Why are we getting so little specific information?


More Europe stories


Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on BBC News

  • Matakauri Lodge, New ZealandHotel hit list

    From a 19th-century former fortress to the Four Seasons, these are some of the best new hotels


  • Passengers on an aeroplaneFast Track Watch

    Frequent travellers are far more likely to be obese, a new study from Columbia University suggests

bbc.co.uk navigation

BBC © 2011 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.