Germany confirms source of E.coli outbreak

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A German government health institute officially acknowledged Saturday that bean sprouts were the source behind a deadly bacteria outbreak, bringing to a close a frantic two-week long probe.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) confirmed test results announced on Friday that identified bean sprouts in the northern village of Bienenbuettel as carrying the virulent E. coli strain EHEC-0104.

Test results on a packet of vegetable sprouts recovered from the rubbish bin of two sick people living in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia provided the first direct trail evidence for the virulent bacteria.

A man notified authorities after suspecting he might be in possession of some of the dangerous sprouts. The Bienenbuettel farm has since closed down.

"These results are an important step in the chain of evidence," said BfR director Andreas Hensel.

The killer bug has claimed at least 33 lives and left some 3,000 ill across 14 countries.

German health officials have also lifted a warning against eating raw tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers, a move welcomed by farmers hit by the crisis.

© 2011 AFP

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