Source: IFOAM EU Group
Since the beginning of May, an outbreak of a new strain of E.Coli has affected mainly Northern Germany, but also other parts of Europe. The tragic outbreak led to about 3000 cases of illness and approximately 40 deaths. The IFOAM EU Group expressed its deepest sympathy to all those affected by the outbreak and called for most urgent research into the cause of the outbreak and preventive measures on 3 June 2011. Organically grown cucumbers have initially been suspected to be the source of infections.
Some media has blamed organic farming on unjustified grounds as being the cause of this outbreak. This hypothesis has been refuted, but despite the fact that the E.Coli outbreak had nothing to do with organic farming methods, many organic growers and retailers were affected by significant income losses due to consumers’ denial of fresh vegetables that lasted several weeks. To react to the situation and to update IFOAM EU members on the situation, an IFOAM EU Group task force on E.Coli has launched a web page on E.Coli. The European Commission has unlocked, first 150, then 210 million Euros to compensate for vegetable producers’ losses caused by the E.Coli crisis. The IFOAM EU group has asked for sufficient compensation of farmers and EU wide coordination in this issue.
A delegation of the IFOAM EU Group has underlined, in talks with DG AGRI officials on 21 June 2011, that in some member states organic farmers have been heavily targeted by the media and should therefore be strongly considered for compensation. Moreover, promotion campaigns should explain to consumers that natural products are still the best choice, while health risks have to be solved by adapted rules. German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) found high probability of responsibility of fenugreek seeds for EHEC O104:H4 outbreak on 30 June 2011. According to a press release the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has launched on 5 July , the source of the E.Coli outbreak seems to have been identified.
BfR carried out a preliminary risk assessment on the relevance of sprouts and sprout seeds in connection with the outbreak event of EHEC O104:H4 in Germany. BfR reaches the conclusion that there is a high probability that fenugreek seeds used for sprout production were the cause underlying the outbreak. The backward tracing of seed deliveries in Germany and other EU Member States by the German authorities and the EFSA Task Force has shown that certain batches of fenugreek seeds are related to the EHEC outbreaks in Germany and France; this is confirmed by the risk assessment of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) on 29 June 2011.
According to EFSA, these batches were imported from Egypt. Consumers are advised to continue to refrain from the consumption of raw sprouts. As a matter of principle, BfR recommends to comply with the general rules of kitchen hygiene also when dealing with sprouts. Further information is available here: EFSA/ECDC 2011: Joint Rapid Risk Assessment, Cluster of haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in Bordeaux, France 29 June 2011 (updated from 24 June)
IFOAM EU Group