Tuesday, June 7, 2011


The super-toxic E.coli bacteria outbreak, centered in Germany, is ongoing and remains unresolved. The culprit is believed to have originated in something the victims ate in Northern Germany. Vegetables - especially cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce - or bean sprouts, are still the main suspect foods.

As a result, some countries have banned import of either EU vegetables generally, or put a ban on vegetables from Germany or Spain, or on certain specific vegetables (the ones suspected). Russia has taken the most drastic measures, banning import of all raw vegetables from the 27 EU nations. This is bad news for the EU since Russia accounts for about 594 million euros ($853 million) worth of EU vegetable imports a year (2010 data).

The EU delegation sent to Russia yesterday had no luck. The Russian Health Minister remained unconvinced. He said: "The meetings were positive and useful information was exchanged, but until we know where the disease is coming from and how to control it ... the ban will remain in effect.'

But are EU vegetables really dangerous? Personally, I doubt they are any more so than similar vegetables grown and processed in Russia, the United States, United Kingdom, or Canada. EU standards for food safety are very high and well enforced, particularly in some EU member countries. But problems occasionally occur in spite of all the efforts - as they do everywhere else too. If vegetables are eaten raw, the consumer is at higher risk.

Besides, we don't even know yet whether the current E.coli outbreak was indeed caused by European-grown vegetables, or by any vegetables for that matter. It could have been sprouts (a legume - which now seems more likely). Or, it could have been meat, or some other food - or, drinking water. We may never know.

Yes, although I prefer locally grown produce, if I was offered European vegetables, I would eat them. I trust EU standards. And, at the moment we have no proof that EU produce is unsafe.

To your good health,


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