EFSA believes fenugreek seeds from Egypt are likely source of outbreaks

EFSA believes fenugreek seeds from Egypt are likely source of outbreaks

Europe's food safety watchdog has said fenugreek seeds from Egypt are the "most likely common link" between the two recent E. coli outbreaks on the continent.

The European Food Safety Authority said today (5 July) that one lot of seeds imported from Egypt and used to produce sprouts is the likely connection between the outbreaks in Germany and France.

"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 likely common link," EFSA said.

EFSA's statement followed last week announcement from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control that indicated that there was a link to seeds from Egypt.

However, the watchdog warned that other lots "may be implicated". It added: "The report highlights that negative results from microbiological tests carried out on seeds cannot be interpreted as proof that a lot is not contaminated with STEC." 

The German outbreak of the Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, or STEC, started in May and caused 48 deaths in the country and one Sweden. Thousands fell ill in a number of member states.
The source of the German outbreak remained a mystery for weeks, with cucumbers from Spain mistakenly blamed. Produce sales across Europe slumped as consumers shied away from a number of vegetables.
On 10 June, almost three weeks after Germany reported the start of its E. coli outbreak, health officials in the country claimed a link to bean sprouts produced in the town of Bienenbüttel.
On 24 June, France reported a second E. coli outbreak in Bordeaux. Sixteen people became ill.