Public warning over 'killer cucumbers'
Safer to buy Irish produce, say health chiefs in wake of E coli outbreak
Published 30/05/2011 | 05:00
THE public is being urged to buy Irish in the wake of a deadly outbreak of E coli bacteria poisoning in Europe, which has claimed 10 lives and left hundreds seriously ill.
Irish people who intend to travel to Germany -- which has been worst hit by the outbreak -- are also being urged to avoid consuming salad vegetables there.
So far nearly 300 people have been affected by the outbreak.
It is believed to have originated in a batch of organic cucumbers from Spain
The cucumbers transited Germany, where at least nine people have died and almost 300 have been left seriously ill with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
HUS is a rare complication arising from infection associated with E coli bacterium, which can result in kidney failure and death.
The majority of the cases are in northern Germany, but cases have also been reported in Britain, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands
No contaminated cucumbers are thought to have reached the Irish food chain as yet, but the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre say they are closely monitoring the situation. Two Spanish farms at Malaga and Almeria were shut down at the weekend after German authorities identified imported Spanish cucumbers as the source of the disease, but Spanish authorities have disputed this.
It is thought some of the cases could have been spread by people who have been in Germany. Anyone who is travelling home from that country, and who falls ill, is being urged to seek medical attention.
FSAI chief executive Alan Reilly said buying Irish-grown vegetables was the best way to ensure safety.
He said the season during which Ireland imports cucumbers from Spain ended three weeks ago, so the Irish public have little to worry about.
"We have checked and rechecked and we are certain there is nothing on the Irish shelves to worry about," he said.
Prof Reilly said the cause of the outbreak is still under investigation.
"This is the first time there has been an outbreak of E coli associated with fresh produce which is eaten raw. The strain is very like the one found in hamburgers but it is extremely virulent and nasty, leading to kidney failure, which is why a lot of older people are succumbing to it," said Prof Reilly.