Ecoli Points to Egypt

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There doesn?t seem to be any closure for the elusive e-coli and the blame game still continues.

European Countries has been playing child?s games by accusing each other for the deadly E-coli outbreak, first it was Spanish cucumbers, and then it was bean sprouts from Germany. Still there are not conclusive evidence for either source.

It has been two months and no real substantial evidence has been provided. The ironic part is that the EU would have acted completely differently if the outbreak has occurred in some developing nation.

?They would have simply put their haughty noses up and looked the other way if this had happened somewhere else? a British Expat living in Dubai told arabiangazette.com

It is evident that the European countries they themselves have been giving Germany cold shoulder even though the EU parliament decided to compensate Spanish farmers.? The other EU countries were too busy trying to tackle problems in their backyard than look into Germany’s.

French outbreak

However the fences? were pulled right from under them. The EU member nations were startled when authorities in France discovered that an E-coli outbreak could very well engulf them.

The suspicion rose when crudit?s eaten at a children?s center in the French city of Bordeaux. The outbreak affected 15 people. This made the French sit up and smell the E-coli.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said the strain was so rare in humans the outbreaks were unlikely to have been isolated incidents and both were linked to eating sprouting seeds.

On 30 June 2011, the Institut de veille sanitaire announced that the results of the analyses performed by the French national reference centre for E. coli and Shigella and its associated laboratory showed that the E. coli O104:H4 that caused the outbreak in Germany in May?June 2011 and that causing the outbreak in France in June were genetically related.

Egyptian seeds

After tracing common food sources, epidemiologists found fenugreek seeds from Egypt could be implicated in both outbreaks, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said.

Okay, now the search has been narrowed to seeds from Egypt. How did these seeds end up half way across the world?

Can anyone believe that the seeds were imported from Egypt in 2009 and 2010? This is what the ECDC is saying.

?The one common source here that keeps coming up over and over again is Egyptian seeds,? Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview today. ?Fenugreek is showing up clearly in the French outbreak and showing up clearly in the German outbreak.?

The French authorities are claiming that the seeds were imported from Egypt in 2009 and these were the culprits. Where as in Germany it is claimed that the seeds imported in 2010 are the culprits.

The seeds got into France from a branch of a national chain of gardening retailers, having been supplied by a distributor in the U.K. this distributor has been identified as Thompson & Morgan (UK) Ltd., a 150 year old company.

In a statement the firm said: “We can confirm that our own supplier sourced this Egyptian seed, which was then supplied to us.

“Further, we can confirm that this sprouting seed was then exclusively supplied into the French garden center market.”

This supplier that Thompson and Morgan are referring to is a German organic seed trader agaSAAT. The German company told Reuters that it had distributed seeds to Thomson & Morgan, a British seed trader cited as a possible source for the outbreak in France, but had been cleared by health authorities.

“We’ve sent seeds to Thomson & Morgan in Britain, but the seeds were not contaminated with E. coli,” agaSAAT’s chief executive Werner Arts said.

“We put our seeds under microbiological testing and there have been no positive tests for E.coli,” he added. “This has also been confirmed by German health authorities.” Arts said his firm buys seeds from Egypt because “that’s where a lot come from. Everyone does it.”

Tests

The French not keen on having a German style disaster in their hands decided to test every inch of the facility.

Thereby the leftover mustard and rocket seeds, gazpacho and tap water samples from the community center have been sent for microbiological analysis.

Also samples of rocket, mustard, fenugreek and other seeds from the French gardening retailer. Even tap water has been sent for analysis.

Preliminary results are being analyzed, the researchers said.

Confusion

Well again we are back to zero or are waiting for a worst disaster.

Many people are baffled at the thought that the seeds used for sprouting had been in storage for a number of years without entering the market. How is it possible that the country of origin can be blamed?

The ECDC and The European Food and Safety Authority 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

It does seem that looking into the country of origin of the seeds would not yield any answers. But a more thorough investigation needs to be done.

Microbiological testing won?t always find the pathogen, especially if the contamination is sporadic and at low levels, Osterholm at the University of Minnesota said.

?Absence of this in a product doesn?t mean anything about what product?s involved,? he said. ?Even if 1-to-2 percent of the seeds are contaminated, it still means that potentially many thousands, if not millions, of people have been exposed given the wide distribution of those seeds and how much of this is consumed.?

Still there is absolutely no certainty.

The element which makes most microbiologists skeptical is that though the strain of e-coli may be the same in Germany and France it simply does not explain the most recent case in Sweden.

ECDC said. So far, no consumption of sprouts has been implicated in the case, which is still being investigated, the agency said.

Arabiangazette spoke to a microbiologist based in Sweden regarding the incidents. He said that the country of origin is not at fault here. My doubt it on the packaging material used and also the irrigation water. E-coli is a bacteria which lives in animal intestines, including humans. Food gets cross contaminated usually later in the distribution chain and at home? he also said that ?Produce may become contaminated due to exposure to contaminated water, improper use of manure, or improper handling at the plant, in transport, at the retailer, or in the home.?

This clearly shows that EU is going about it the wrong way in finding the cause. Rather than finding scapegoats to pin the blame on, it would be would be better for everyone that they weeded out the some wrong agricultural practices that may be happening.

Source: Bloomberg, BBC News, CNN

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