Deadly Puzzle

If you’ve been following world news, you must have heard about the E. coli outbreak in Germany. In the Thursday, June 2nd edition of The New York Times, this strain of E. coli bacteria was explained as an especially nasty one because it is affecting people’s kidneys in unexpected numbers and in an unprecedentedly short amount of time, which is causing comas, seizures and strokes in those susceptible. The disease caused by this strain of the virus can cause permanent kidney damage even if a patient recovers. According to this news issue, 1,500 people have been affected and 16 people have died, all but one from Germany.

German authorities in Hamburg, the center of the outbreak, are frantically trying to pinpoint the source of the bacteria. Since most of the patients were reported to have eaten cucumbers, tomatoes or leaf lettuce in northern Germany, they are theorizing that vegetables are the source (steak and salad being a prime lunch/dinner choice). And because the European Union is made groups of sovereign states, there is no overarching medical data base for comparing the tests and lab results which could more quickly pinpoint the cause/type of disease.

The authorities at first blamed Spain as a source of the cucumbers since it did find E. coli on their produce; however, it was not the virulent strain causing the deaths. Karl Schmitz, the director of the German Federal Association of Producers of Fruit and Vegetables, was quoted in the Times, “Major growers in Germany are losing up to $7 million daily and two-thirds of all vegetables, including lettuce and tomatoes, produced by members were being destroyed. In Spain, the damage is much broader, estimated at about $286 million a week.” This will result in a major hit to each country’s Gross Domestic Product, all but shutting down Spain’s organic production and severely damaging Germany’s reputation.

On Monday, June 6th, The Washington Times reported that more than 2, 000 people had been made sick and at least 22 people had died. Scientists have confirmed that bean sprouts are the likely cause of the spread of the virus and quote Gert Lindemann, Lower Saxony Agriculture Minister, as pointing to one organic farm in between the cities of Hamburg and Hanover as the source of infections in five German states.  Twelve countries are now reporting cases, including the US, where 4 people are infected.

By June 11th, the Los Angeles Times explains that the debacle, which has been going on since May 21st when the first case was reported, has led to accusations and loss of resources of many European countries: not only has Spain had to let their vegetables rot in the sun, but suspicion was cast onto the Netherlands, Italy, and Portugal among others; Russia and Saudi Arabia actually put an embargo on produce from the European Union although Russia has raised theirs upon Germany’s insistence that the source has been found.

As it stands now, up to 3,000 people have now been infected and 30 of them have died. The EU has agreed to shell out about $300 million Euro in compensation to affected farmers. It remains to be seen how this will play out on the international scene as the EU has problems already with the necessary bailouts of Greece and Ireland.


A Battered Germany Recovers from E. Coli Outbreak by Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times June 11, 2011 Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

E. Coli Deaths Causing Panic Across Europe New York Times, The (NY) – Thursday, June 2, 2011 Author: Alan Cowell and William Neuman, Alan Cowell reported from Berlin, and William Neuman from New York. Reporting was contributed by James Kanter from Brussels Victor Homola, Stefan Pauly and Judy Dempsey from Berlin and Raphael Minder from Motril, Spain.

E. Coli Outbreak Traced To Sprouts – N. Germany Seen As Source Washington Times, The (DC) – Monday, June 6, 2011 Author: Siobhan Dowling, Special To The Washington TimesSection: PAGE ONE Page: A01Dateline: Berlin


One response to “Deadly Puzzle

  1. It’s unfortunate, but I believe all governments have the responsibility to plan for these types of unexpected situations. Governments are not in the profit making business and its a positive sign they are at least attempting to make the farmers whole again.

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