The EHEC bacteria in The Netherlands

In Germany, many people have become ill after they were infected with the EHEC bacteria, and some have died. Currently, there are 8 known cases of EHEC infection in the Netherlands, all in people who had recently visited northern Germany.

EHEC, (enterohemorrhagic E. coli, also described as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)) is a toxic strain of normal intestinal bacteria. It causes an infection of the large intestine and can even lead to serious kidney complications.
Source of contamination

The source of contamination is still shrouded in uncertainty, causing considerable anxiety among the general public. The German public health authorities and EU experts are making every effort to identify the primary source of contamination.

EHEC strain found on Dutch beetroot sprouts
The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (nVWA) has found an EHEC strain on a consignment of beetroot sprouts produced by a Dutch grower. It is not the O104 strain that has caused the outbreak in Germany. As a precaution, however, the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, Edith Schippers, has ordered that the products be taken off the market.
Impact on vegetable exports

The uncertainty surrounding the source of contamination is affecting Dutch growers. Dutch exports of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and bell peppers, valued at about €1.1 billion euros a year, have fallen sharply.
Support for growers

The Minister for Agriculture and Foreign Trade, Henk Bleker, is investigating the scope for support to the market gardening sector, for instance through the common market organisation for fruit and vegetables. The Minister has also called for the European Commission to set up a contingency fund for the sector.
Russian import ban

Last week, Russia banned the import of fruit and vegetables from the EU. The Netherlands exports about 200 million euros’ worth of fruit and vegetables to Russia each year. The import ban is currently costing about 15 million euros a week.

Mr Bleker has discussed the import ban with his counterparts in Moscow. They have agreed that the import of Dutch fruit and vegetables will be resumed as soon as Dutch and Russian technical experts agree on the conditions that must be in place to establish the safety of Dutch products.

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