Toxic cucumbers kill 11, infect 1,200 in Germany, and may spread through Europe


Photo: Todd Tyrtle under a Creative Commons license.

Over the weekend, an outbreak of E. coli spread throughout Germany, killing eleven people and infecting more than 1,000. Cucumbers have been identified as the source of the bacteria, but the source of the vegetables themselves is unclear. At first, health officials thought two Spanish farms were responsible, but Spain has denied the charges, and the bacteria has been found on cucumbers that may have been grown elsewhere, reported the BBC.Consumers in Germany have been warned not to eat cucumbers until things are clarified. The Czech Republic, Austria and France have taken Spanish-grown cucumbers off the shelves. The United Kingdom has verified that none of the infected vegetables were sold in British stores.

E. coli can cause Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a disease that attacks the kidneys with a 5-10% mortality rate.

And it looks like things will get worse before they get better: more deaths and infections are expected, and the problem vegetables may still be on sale in Europe. Those exported to Germany may have been re-exported to Hungary and Luxembourg.

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