Bean sprouts from an organic farm in Saxony were the E coli culprit responsible for severe illness and deaths in Germany:
Reinhard Burger, the president of the Robert Koch Institute, which is responsible for disease control and prevention in Germany, said there was enough evidence to draw the conclusion even though no sprouts from an organic farm in Lower Saxony had tested positive for the E coli strain.
“It was possible to narrow down epidemiologically the cause of the outbreak of the illness to the consumption of sprouts,” Burger said at a news conference. “It is the sprouts.”
The sprouts were initially blamed for the outbreak on Sunday, but authorities backpedalled the following day after negative laboratory tests.
The breakthrough in the investigation came when a taskforce linked patients who had fallen ill to 26 restaurants and cafeterias that had received produce from the organic farm.
That the farm was organic isn’t necessarily relevant.
Officials said it was possible that other nearby farms could be affected because it had not yet been established whether the seeds or the farm’s water had been contaminated.
Finding the source of the infection has cleared other producers and products but it is not the end of the saga.
Twenty nine people have died, many more became seriously ill, some still are.
The outbreak has also had a severe economic impact as crops were dumped and consumers spurned fresh produce.
It is a reminder that in New Zealand where we rely so heavily on our reputation for safe food we can not be too careful at all stages from producer to consumer.