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E.coli scare cucumbers removed


Cucumbers from Spain at a market in Hamburg, northern Germany (AP)

Cucumbers from Spain at a market in Hamburg, northern Germany (AP)

Cucumbers from Spain at a market in Hamburg, northern Germany (AP)

Spanish vegetables suspected of being contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria are being recalled from shops in Austria and the Czech Republic to prevent the spread of a deadly outbreak.

The death toll from the bacteria has risen to at least 10 and hundreds across Europe have been made ill.

Czech authorities said on Sunday that 120 organic Spanish cucumbers were being taken off shelves while their counterparts in neighbouring Austria announced that "small amounts" of cucumbers, as well as tomatoes and eggplants, were being removed from 33 stores.

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety said it was informed by a European Union warning system that two German companies had issued an immediate recall and sales ban of cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplants they had delivered to stores in the Alpine republic. The agency said some of the vegetables may have been sold and urged consumers to throw them away.

The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority said cucumbers from a contaminated shipment also went to Hungary and Luxembourg. There were no immediate reports of illness there. The cucumbers went through Germany, where health chiefs said one more person had succumbed to the bacteria, raising the death toll from nine to 10.

The number of people infected also went up over the weekend, with at least 467 cases of intestinal infection in the northern city of Hamburg alone, including 91 cases of the more severe haemolytic uraemic syndrome, Hamburg health official Cornelia Pruefer-Storcks said. HUS is a rare complication arising from infection associated with the E.coli bacterium.

An exact number of infections in Germany was not available, but local papers estimated that around 1,000 people had fallen ill with the intestinal infection across the country by Sunday.

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Sweden said 36 cases of the bacterial infection have been reported and that 13 had developed HUS. In Denmark, 11 people have been infected, including five with HUS.

Britain's Health Protection Agency said England had so far seen three cases of E.coli in German nationals - two with HUS. The Food Standards Agency said there was no evidence any of the effected organic cucumbers have been distributed to the UK but it was monitoring the situation closely.

Frederic Vincent, a spokesman for the European Union, said two greenhouses in Spain that were identified as the source of the contaminated cucumbers had ceased activities. The water and soil there are being analysed to see whether they were the problem or the contamination occurred elsewhere, he added.

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