Dutch welcome German veggie warning cancellation

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The Netherlands Friday welcomed Germany's lifting of a warning on eating raw tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers, three weeks after a deadly bacterial outbreak hit trade with its largest export market.

"For us it's excellent news. We hope it will restore consumer confidence in Germany and get the export industry back on track," Murco Mijnlieff, spokesman for Agriculture State Secretary Hans Bleker told AFP.

At least 33 people have died, 32 of them in Germany, following the start of the deadly outbreak of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) last month.

Dutch cucumber, tomato and paprika growers have seen a massive drop in exports to Germany.

EHEC can result in full-blown haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a disease that causes bloody diarrhoea, serious liver damage and possible death.

Germany blamed vegetable sprouts Friday for the outbreak that has also left some 3,000 ill and cost farmers across Europe hundreds of millions in lost sales at the peak of its fresh produce season.

The Dutch Agriculture Ministry has said cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce exports to its neighbour generated earnings of 1.1 billion euros ($ 1.4 billion) annually and that Germany was the country's largest export market.

Productschap Tuinbouw, an interest group representing Dutch commercial vegetable farmers, estimated that vegetable producers and wholesalers were losing around 70 million euros per week as a result of the outbreak.

© 2011 AFP

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