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Frequently Asked Questions on EHEC infections caused by vegetable foods

Updated FAQ of BfR of 15 June 2011

In May 2011 an increased number of cases of EHEC infections occurred with partly severe courses of the disease and even fatalities.

According to the current state of knowledge, indications have accumulated that the EHEC infections originate from a horticultural farm in Lower Saxony, and that sprouts were contaminated with the pathogen. This suspected scenario is currently based on the evaluation of the company’s distribution chain. The distribution chain and the geographical distribution of numerous locations at which individuals got infected with the pathogen correlate. At present, investigations on this matter are still under way.

At the same time, it was possible to trace back that meals consumed at the locations of infection under investigation contained sprouts that originate from the horticulture company. The pathogen has also now been detected in a sprout sample.

Until further data are available, BfR recommends that consumers refrain from eating raw sprouts. This recommendation also applies to home-grown sprouts, as it may be possible that seeds used to cultivate sprouts were contaminated.

At present, the competent regional authorities are withdrawing products from the market that originate from the company in Lower Saxony. Hence, they have overall further increased controls of sprouts and sprout seeds.

Normally the infection risk involved in the consumption of fruits and vegetables is lower than for animal products. Against the backdrop of the outbreak situation in May 2011, consumers should, however, strictly observe certain rules of behaviour in order to keep their individual infection risk as low as possible.

With a view to basic and more detailed information about EHEC, please consider the consumer tips of BfR "Protection against infections with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC)" of January 2011.



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Updated BfR FAQ
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