Czech authorities launch checks of fresh vegetables in response to German outbreak of E.coli infection

Foto: Neil Gould, Stock.xchng

The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority on Monday ordered a nation-wide inspection of fresh vegetables. The decision comes after more than a hundred Spanish cucumbers possibly contaminated with a deadly mutated E. coli bacterium went on sale in several health food outlets in the country. Czech authorities are implementing the checks after vegetables with the infectious bacteria killed ten consumers in neighboring Germany.

Photo: Neil Gould, Stock.XCHNG
Spanish authorities have backed their country’s vegetable farmers, who deny that their produce carries a mutated E.coli bacterium which has caused infectious outbreaks in Germany and other European countries.

However, German experts claim that contaminated Spanish cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce are the source of a deadly intestinal infection that has killed ten people in Germany, and affected more than 1,200 others in several other countries.

No case of the infection has to date been registered in the Czech Republic, but the State Agriculture and Food Inspection decided on Monday to launch a nation-wide inspection of fresh vegetables to make sure no contaminated produce is sold to consumers. Jindřich Pokora is the head of the food authority’s inspection and laboratory department.

Jindřich Pokora
“We decided today that we will carry out nation-wide inspections focusing on fresh vegetables on the Czech market and their possible contamination with the E.coli bacterium. Right now, our regional departments are being given instructions and some 260 samples of fresh vegetables will be taken for analysis.”

The decision comes two days after the Czech food and beverage authority identified and recalled two shipments of potentially dangerous cucumbers imported to the country from Spain via a German distribution centre. They were sold in 12 health food outlets in various parts of the Czech Republic. Jindřich Pokora again.

“There were two shipments. We managed to retain one of them, and the other is being pulled off the shelves now. But we know for sure now that it won’t be possible to pull all of them, as some have already been consumed. If we find out there have been more shipments of these cucumbers, we will deal with the situation accordingly.”

Mr. Pokora said the German distributor also sent shipments of Spanish cucumbers to go on sale in Luxembourg, Austria and Hungary.

Photo: CTK
The food inspection authority says results of the analysis should be ready by Wednesday; fortunately, none of the people who bought and ate the cucumbers in question have yet experienced any symptoms of the disease.

Meanwhile, retailers in the Czech Republic have pulled Spanish produce off their shelves and replaced it with vegetables grown in the Czech Republic, Poland and other countries. The country’s chief hygiene officer, Michael Vít, urges consumers to either peel or properly wash fresh vegetables to minimize the risk of contracting the deadly infection.