CAIRO: European investigators on Tuesday said that one shipment of fenugreek seeds from Egypt is the likely culprit for the E. coli outbreak in Germany that has already killed 49 people and led to a smaller outbreak in neighboring France.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), additional European Union countries may have imported tainted seeds and called on the European Commission to make “all efforts” to prevent any further consumer exposure.
Consumers should not eat sprouts or sprouted seeds unless they are thoroughly cooked, a statement from the EFSA said.
Some 4,000 people in Europe and North America have been infected in two outbreaks of E. coli infection – one centered in northern Germany and one focused around the French city of Bordeaux.
Almost all of those affected in the first outbreak – the deadliest on record – lived in Germany or had recently traveled there. The infection has killed 48 people in Germany and one person in Sweden.
“The analysis of information from the French and German outbreaks leads to the conclusion that an imported lot of fenugreek seeds which was used to grow sprouts imported from Egypt by a German importer is the most common likely link,” the EFSA said in a statement.
It added that the contamination of the seeds with a highly toxic strain of E. coli had taken place “at some point prior to leaving the importer.”
“Other lots of fenugreek imported from Egypt during the period 2009 to 2011 may be implicated,” EFSA said, adding that investigations should be carried out in all countries that may have received seeds from the lots concerned.