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June 7, 2011

BELGIUM: Commission seeks caution on E. coli claims

The European Commissioner for health today (7 June) called on member states not to jump to "premature conclusions" over the source of the E. coli crisis.

The European Commissioner for health today (7 June) called on member states not to jump to “premature conclusions” over the source of the E. coli crisis.

Speaking to the European Parliament today, John Dalli asked that countries not rush to give information on the source of the infection before it is proven through bacteriological analysis as this spreads “unjustified fears in the population all over Europe and creates problems for our food producers in selling products in the EU and outside”.

The comments follow German health authorities suggesting two possible sources for the outbreak, which have now been discounted – Spanish cucumbers and bean sprouts from the German town of Bienenbüttel.

Spanish farmers have sought compensation following the claims, as they argue the nation’s agriculture industry has been losing some EUR200m (US$293m) a week in lost sales as countries have blocked imports of its fresh produce.

Dalli stressed that the outbreak has been limited geographically to an area surrounding the city of Hamburg, so there is “no reason as of today, to take such measures at European level”.

While Dalli outlined his concerns about the human cost of the outbreak, which the WHO now says has taken some 22 lives and made more than 2,000 people ill, he also said he was “very sensitive” to the financial impact that this crisis is having on farmers.

EU agricultural ministers are currently meeting to discuss “concrete options” around compensating farmers that have been hit by the E. coli crisis. According to the BBC, European agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos is proposing EUR150m in compensation for the farmers.

Check back later for just-food’s coverage of the meeting.

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