Europe E.coli outbreak may have been caused by Egyptian seedsBy Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 5:20 PM on 30th June 2011
The strain, which has killed at least 48 people, has been linked to sprouted fenugreek seeds in initial investigations by European scientists.
The bacteria caused a major outbreak in Germany and a smaller one around Bordeaux in France in May.
Almost all of those who sickened lived in Germany or had recently travelled there.
In a joint statement they said: 'The tracing back is progressing and has thus far shown that fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt either in 2009 and/or 2010 are implicated in both outbreaks.'
Fenugreek is used as a herb or spice.
At one point British seed trader Thomson & Morgan had been cited as a possible source for the outbreak in France, but they were cleared by health authorities.
The ECDC and EFSA inquiry teams warned, however, that since contamination of the seeds could have occurred at any stage in the long and complex supply chain between seed production, transport, packaging and distribution, 'this would also mean that other batches of potentially contaminated seeds are still available within the EU (European Union), and perhaps outside.'
The ECDC and EFSA said a batch of fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt in 2009 appeared to be implicated in the outbreak in France, and a 2010 batch was 'considered to be implicated in the German outbreak.'
But they said there was still "much uncertainty" about whether these seeds from Egypt were 'truly the common cause of all the infections' as there are currently no positive bacteriological results.
'Until the investigation has been finalized, ECDC and EFSA strongly recommend advising consumers not to grow sprouts for their own consumption and not to eat sprouts or sprouted seeds unless they have been cooked thoroughly,' they said.