Dutch to ask EU's help after cucumber crisis

31st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Netherlands said it will ask for EU help for its vegetable growers facing a crashing German export market after 14 people died following an outbreak of food poisoning linked to cucumbers.

"State Secretary Hans Bleker has told the sector that he's looking at support possibilities to get it through this period of uncertainty," the Economic Affairs and Agricultural Ministry said in a statement issued late Monday.

"This can be done, for instance by using a European regulation on vegetables and fruit. This in the short term could deliver support amounting to a maximum of 10 million euros," the ministry said.

Dutch cucumber, tomato and paprika growers this week faced a massive drop in exports to Germany where 14 people have died and hundreds were taken ill after a sudden outbreak of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) after eating suspected raw vegetables.

EHEC can result in full-blown haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a disease that causes bloody diarrhoea, serious liver damage and possible death.

Authorities in Germany warned against eating raw vegetables after traces of the bacteria were found on organic cucumbers from Spain last week.

The Dutch ministry said so far no contamination had been found in the country's own vegetables, but that tests were being conducted.

"The health authorities have taken countless samples and we are expecting results during the course of the day," one official said.

Cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce exports to Germany generated revenue estimated at 1.1 billion euros (1.4 billion US dollars) per year, the ministry said, adding that a large number of growers "were dependent on exports to Germany."

Belgium placed a ban on Spanish cucumbers Monday. Russia has banned imports of German and Spanish vegetables, saying it could extend similar measures to all other EU countries.

© 2011 AFP

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