EU slams Lebanese ban on vegetable imports

3rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The European Union on Friday slammed Lebanon's decision to ban vegetable imports from the EU in response to an outbreak of E. coli poisoning that has killed at least 18 people.

"Any total embargo on European vegetables is disproportionate," Frederic Vincent, the spokesman for health at the European Commission, told AFP.

The ban was announced in Beirut by Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan.

He said it posed "no risk of shortages on the local market," as Lebanon could count on its own production and that of neighbouring Jordan and Syria.

Earlier this week, Russia banned all vegetable imports from the EU, sparking an angry response from the 27-nation bloc which warned the move was at odds with its bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

Like Russia, Lebanon is not currently a WTO member.

Officials in the northern city of Hamburg initially blamed organic Spanish cucumbers but tests this week showed that while they carried bacteria, it was not the strain responsible for the contamination.

Despite the false alarm over Spanish produce, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national disease centre, still advises consumers to avoid cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, particularly in the north of the country.

© 2011 AFP

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