Minister tells Italians to wash cucumbers thoroughly

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Italy's health minister urged Italians on Tuesday to wash Spanish cucumbers thoroughly before eating them, amid concern around Europe about a batch linked to a deadly bacterial outbreak in Germany.

"We cannot exclude that the E.coli variant currently present in Germany could also arrive in Italy," Ferruccio Fazio told reporters in Rome, explaining that Italy had already seized 1.6 tons of Spanish cucumbers for checks.

He said there was no danger as long as rules of basic hygiene are observed.

"We can avoid transmission of the infection by using rules of hygiene like cleaning our hands thoroughly and washing the fruit and vegetables," he said.

"Italian consumers have to look at the origin of the cucumbers. They do not need to be concerned at all if they are from our country.

"If the cucumbers come from Spain, they will not be in any danger if they wash them well," he said.

At least 16 people have died, mostly in Germany, since the outbreak was first reported more than two weeks ago. Hamburg authorities were the first to say that cucumbers imported from Spain were the likely cause of contamination.

Spain has angrily rejected blame for the outbreak and slammed Germany's handling of the crisis, saying it was costing the Spanish agriculture industry more than 200 million euros ($288 million) a week in lost sales.

© 2011 AFP

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