Europe ‘poorly prepared’ for E coli crisis

Europe should be better prepared for E coli outbreaks like the German epidemic that killed more than 35 people, MEPs have warned.

Members of the European Parliament Agricultural Committee want a permanent rapid-response mechanism to deal with future crises.

They made the call following talks with farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos, where they discussed the impact of the E coli outbreak on EU farmers.

Customers’ confidence in EU agricultural products must be restored, the MEPs argued.

Criticising Europe’s response as being too slow, the MEPs called for promotional campaigns to be launched as soon as possible.

The German E coli outbreak was blamed initially on Spanish cucumbers. But German officials then said sprouting seeds were to blame – prompting Spanish growers to step up compensation claims.

In a separate case, a leading British seed company has suspended sales of sprouting seeds following fears they may be linked to an E coli outbreak in France.

Thompson & Morgan of Suffolk said it was “highly unlikely” its seeds were to blame for the French outbreak.

The Food Standards Agency said no cases of food poisoning have been reported in the UK linked to the outbreak in France.

“We are in close contact with the Health Protection Agency, which is actively monitoring the situation,” said an agency statement.

The agency also advises that equipment used for sprouting seeds should be cleaned thoroughly after use.

“You should always wash your hands after handling seeds intended for planting or sprouting,” the agency statement said.