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Spanish cucumber blame axes 500 jobs

Wed 1st Jun 2011

The recent E. coli outbreak which has been linked to at least 16 deaths across Europe was not due to Spanish cucumbers, German authorities admitted on Tuesday.

The suspected contamination of certain Salad vegetables originating from Spain by enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, also known as EHEC, has caused widespread concern across Europe, where over 1,000 people have been infected and at at least 373 have been admitted to hospital as being 'seriously ill'.

German authorities have now reported that the E. coli found in Spanish cucumbers was not the same strain that led to 15 German fatalities and the death of one Swede who travelled to Germany.

The admission only increased doubt on the source of the outbreak, with France and other countries demanding more transparency from Germany and Spain on the issue. The admission, which came five days after Germany warned citizens not to eat Spanish produce, has taken a toll in the sales of Spanish cucumbers. Growers said they are facing a plunge in sales after at least seven European nations stopped accepting Spanish produce. Russia also stopped produce shipments from Spain. Inspections of imported Spanish cucumbers have also been intensified in the United States, Austria and the UAE.

Despite he retraction of blame by Germany, the damage has already been done : Farmers from the Andalusian region have reported a drop in revenue of up 7 Million Euros per day and are seeking compensation as a result of the blame being attributed to them.

It has also been suggested that the knock-on effect could contribute to the loss of more than 500 jobs. According to the spokesman of the Federation of Associations of Agricultural Producing Companies in Andalusia (EOCHAL), the industry has lost 550 jobs since the crisis broke last Friday, as the health alert has paralysed the sale of fruit and vegetables in several European countries.

This comes at a time when unemployment and protests surrounding austerity cuts are at an all time high.

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