Berlin to lift lettuce, tomato, cucumber bacteria warning

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Berlin was set to announce on Friday a lifting of its warning on eating raw lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers because of fear of contamination by a killer bacteria, an official told AFP.

But sprouts remain "a hot lead" in the investigation on the origin of the contamination that has left 30 dead and some 3,000 people infected, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Thousands of tests carried out on tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce have proved negative. But there are ever more signs of a link between people contaminated and a farm" in Lower Saxony which specialised in growing a variety of sprouts, said the government official.

"The links are ever clearer. It's a hot lead," he said.

"The warning is to be lifted today .... But it will be maintained for the eating of raw sprouts," he added.

The warning has cost vegetable growers in Europe tens of millions of euros in lost sales.

Lower Saxony agriculture minister Gert Lindemann said earlier this week that experts had found no traces of the E. coli bacteria strain at the organic sprout farm on which suspicion had fallen fell at the weekend, but he did not rule it out as the source of the contamination.

© 2011 AFP

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