EU bans Egyptian seeds after E.coli report

by Editor
Monday, July 11, 2011

The EU has banned the import of seeds from Egypt, including fenugreek seeds, after a study of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) identified them as the probable cause of recent E.coli 104 H4 outbreaks which killed 48 people in Germany, sickened about 4000 and affected 15 people in France.

Both German and French outbreaks were traced to the same fenugreek seed batch imported from Egypt and used for sprout production on the farm in Lower Saxony in 2009. Another fenugreek batch was used for seed production on the same farm in April and May this year.

The EU ruling requires member states to ensure that all lots of fenugreek seeds imported from one Egyptian exporter between 2009 and 2011 are withdrawn from the market, sampled and destroyed. The import of all Egyptian seeds and beans for sprouting is suspended until October 31. Last year, the EU imported from Egypt about 49,000t of the types of seeds affected by the EU ban decision. Their total value was more than €56m. Most imports of seeds for sprouting come from India and China.

Contaminated sprout seeds may still be on the market and further outbreaks are to be expected, warned the EFSA report. EFSA, ECDC and the German authorities all recommend that consumers refrain from growing sprouts for personal consumption and not to consume sprouts or germ buds which have not been thoroughly cooked.