Russia says it may ban German vegetables

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Russia may ban all German vegetable imports after potentially deadly E. coli bacteria caused more than 270 people to fall seriously ill in Germany, the country's top health official said Friday.

"Because the situation is ongoing and we do not know its causes or the mechanisms by which it is spread, we are examining the option of imposing a ban on German vegetable imports," news agencies quoted Gennady Onishchenko as saying.

The country's top doctor said the ban would remain in place "until we fully understand the reasons for the current situation."

There was no immediate information about when the ban might be imposed.

"We are not banning imports yet," Onishchenko said.

Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli can result in acute renal failure, seizures, strokes and coma.

The German consumer affairs ministry said investigations were under way to track the precise origin of the contamination in vegetables which have been ordered withdrawn from the market.

German authorities have identified organic cucumbers from Spain as a source of the bacteria which has also led to food poisoning in Sweden, Denmark, Britain and the Netherlands.

But Spain's agriculture minister, Rosa Aguilar, said it was too early to blame her country and complained the accusations had caused "irreparable damage" to the sector.

The Russian official said 600 people had fallen in Germany so far and two had died.

"Experts believe that this is linked to the consumption of fresh vegetables -- tomatoes, cucumbers and salad grown in the northern regions of Germany," he said.

Onishchenko's agency also issued a statement instructing Russians to avoid eating German vegetables and those who are planning to visit the country to only eat prepared food.

The sanitation agency said in a statement that it "strongly encourages Russian citizens to abstain from consuming vegetables being shipped from Germany."

© 2011 AFP

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