Spain denies halt in health scare cucumber distribution
Authorities in southern Spain denied Saturday that they had suspended the activities of two distributors suspected of exporting cucumbers tainted with potentially deadly bacteria.
The regional council of Andalusia said suspect batches of cucumbers had been withdrawn pending laboratory checks whose results would be known Monday, after haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) blamed on Spanish cucumbers claimed at least two lives in Germany and sickened nearly 300.
The European Commission said Friday that Spain had suspended the activities of two distributors in the southern provinces of Almeria and Malaga.
A probe was launched and samples were taken from the soil, water and products from the two agricultural sites, the European Union's executive arm said.
"Investigations are ongoing to identify other potential sources, while a third suspect batch of cucumbers originating either in The Netherlands or in Denmark, and traded in Germany, is also under investigation," it said.
A suspect consignment of Spanish cucumbers was distributed to Denmark, but authorities there traced the vegetables and withdrew them from the market, the statement said.
The Andalusian authorities said Saturday that exhaustive checks by the Malaga company on its cucumbers had shown them totally free of contamination.
"Nevertheless we decided to suspend the product as a preventive measure," a statement added.
In the other company, at Roquetas del Mar, a consignment had been identified with some difficulty, it said.
Samples from suspect batches had been sent to a laboratory in the northwest province of Galicia for testing.
Germany's national disease centre said Friday more than 60 new cases of HUS had been reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number in Germany to 276. At least two people have died.
The potentially fatal HUS is caused by enterohaemorrhagic E. coli bacteria.
Sweden has reported 25 E. coli cases, with 10 of those people developing HUS, the commission said. Denmark reported seven E. coli cases (including three HUS) while Britain counted three cases (two HUS).
The Netherlands had one HUS case and Austria reported two cases of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, while Switzerland has one suspected.
© 2011 AFP