E.coli: Belgium unhappy with information from Germany

Belgium's Federal Food Safety Agency FAVV has confirmed that some Spanish cucumbers may still be found in Belgian shops. Cucumbers are the centre of controversy following claims that organic produce from Spain triggered the outbreak of E.coli that has claimed at least 16 lives in Germany.

Latest tests in Germany have shown that Spanish cucumbers were not contaminated with the E.coli bacteria that have meanwhile claimed 16 lives. German scientists are still in the dark about the actual source of the E.coli.

Belgium's Food Safety Agency, the FAVV, wants the European commission to bring greater clarity in connection with the E.coli outbreak in Germany. The agency says that it is unsatisfied with the information coming from Germany because both the federal authorities and the authorities of the German states are making announcements.

The FAVV sees no cause for concern here. There has not been a single confirmed case of E.coli in Belgium.

Earlier the FAVV also said that no Spanish cucumbers had been imported here for months now.

Belgium on Monday banned the import of Spanish cucumbers. The measure is not expected to have much impact because few cucumbers are currently sourced from Spain.

Belgian Agriculture Minister Sabine Laruelle (Francophone liberal) told reporters on Monday that no cucumbers have been imported since last winter.

Demand for cucumbers, even Belgian ones, has dropped off entirely. Cucumber farmers face enormous economic damage as a result of the problems in Germany.

Experts suggest that more people will come down with E.coli in the coming week because it takes two weeks before any signs of illness occur. The disease can also be passed on from human to human. The E.coli variety that has been detected in Germany did not occur in Europe until now. Flemish microbiologist Herman Goossens says that the German variety may differ from the one being reported from other European countries where there is a resurgence of the usual variety of E.coli:

"It's a very confusing story. Sweden and the Czech Republic both report cases of E.coli, but this could be due to the usual variety and not the one that has now occurred in Germany for a first time."

What is E.coli? Professor Mark P Stevens of Britain's Roslin Institute explains.