Spain threatens to sue Hamburg over cucumber slur

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Spain threatened Wednesday to sue Hamburg for damages after the German city pointed to Spanish cucumbers as the source of a fatal outbreak of enterohamorrhagic E. coli.

Hamburg health authorities admitted Tuesday that tests on two suspect Spanish cucumbers showed they did not carry the bacteria strain that has killed 15 people in Germany and one in Sweden.

"We do not rule out taking action against the authorities who called into question the quality of our prouducts," Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told Spanish radio Cadena Ser.

"We may take action against the authorities, in this case Hamburg," the minister said.

Spain's vegetable and fruit exporters estimate damages of more than 200 million euros ($290 million) a week as importers across Europe stop buying Spanish produce because of the scare.

Madrid has demanded European Union compensation for Spain and other producer countries hit by the crisis.

"The bacteria is not in Spain," Rubalcaba said.

"Once the truth is re-established, what we need to do is repair the damages, which are not small: we have lost a lot of money and a lot of our image," the minister said.

Authorities in the northern German city of Hamburg say they are still searching for the source of the outbreak.

The two Spanish cucumbers tested so far came up positive for enterohamorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) but not the strain responsible for the huge outbreak, they said.

© 2011 AFP

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