Suspected E.coli poisoning traced to British sprouts: France

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A French minister Friday pointed to a British producer of vegetable sprouts as the possible source of 10 suspected cases of E. coli poisoning in Bordeaux, southwestern France.

At least six out of the 10 people were found to have eaten the sprouts at a local fete in Begres, southeast of Bordeaux, said a police statement, citing health authorities.

Health authorities said tests had shown two of the patients were infected by the same potentially deadly strain of the disease as that found recently in Germany, but did not say whether there was a link between the two outbreaks.

Frederic Lefebvre, secretary of state for consumer affairs, said the sprouts were purchased at a Jardiland store and were produced by Thompson & Morgan based in Ipswich, England.

The minister called for the the company's sprouts, mustard and roquette to be withdrawn from sale while an analysis was conducted.

Lefebvre also recommended that "consumers who bought these same products not use them," he said in a statement.

He stressed however that "the link between the symptoms and eating of the sprouts so far has not been definitively established."

Bordeaux police had reported Thursday that seven people were hospitalised, but raised the number of cases on Friday to 10 people, all of whom they said suffered bloody diarrhoea. Two people were able to return home and one was not hospitalised.

An outbreak of a killer strain of E. coli bacteria in Germany has killed at least 43 people, health authorities there said. That outbreak is blamed on organic vegetable sprouts grown in northern Germany.

Last week seven children were hospitalised in the northern French city of Lille with E. coli poisoning thought to have been caused by eating frozen hamburgers. Police said the Bordeaux case was not linked to that one.

© 2011 AFP

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