German sprouts cleared of E coli in Germany
Initial laboratory tests in Germany have exonerated vegetable sprouts, suspected of spreading a virulent form of E coli, officials said Monday after 23 out of 40 samples had been tested, dpa reported.
Earlier, the vegetable sprouts which are now the prime suspect in an outbreak of mutant E coli in Germany were delivered to company canteens where some victims ate, investigators said Monday as they waited for lab findings from samples.
So far the evidence has been contradictory about the sprouts, which were grown from beans and seeds at a germinating temperature of 38 degrees in hothouses near the northern town of Uelzen.
Thorsten Neels, spokesman for consumer protection authorities in Hesse state, said in Wiesbaden that some victims had eaten at company canteens in Frankfurt and Darmstadt.
Checks showed these canteens had obtained sprouts, used as a garnish on salad, from the Uelzen farm.
Officials have speculated the dry seeds supplied to the farmer may have contained the enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) identified as the cause of 21 deaths in Europe in the past two weeks.
But laboratory tests to confirm or disprove this have not been completed.
A Berlin government spokesman called for caution, saying it was still possible the germ was being spread by some other food.
Federal consumer affairs ministry spokesman Holger Eichele said the sprouts link was "very plausible" but still unproven.
A warning against eating lettuce, raw tomatoes and cucumbers remains in place.
Jan Kielstein, a kidney specialist treating victims at the University of Muenster Hospital in northern Germany, said patients had not mentioned eating the sprouts.
"I spoke to two patients this morning, and neither could remember eating them," he said. "The word sprouts never came up interviews here."