SPAIN is seeking compensation after being ‘wrongly’ accused of causing an E.coli outbreak that has led to the deaths of 18 people.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced the country would demand damages for the economic losses suffered after authorities in Hamburg – the city at the heart of the outbreak – revealed new tests showed cucumbers imported from Spain, are not to blame.
Rosa Aguilar, Spain’s agricultural minister, also criticised Germany of being too quick to place the blame.
“We are disappointed by the way Germany handled the situation,” she said at a meeting of EU agricultural ministers in Hungary.
“From the beginning Spanish cucumbers have been named as responsible for this situation. This was said without having reliable data and we insist that it is not true,” she said.
The impact on Spain’s agricultural sector has been described as ‘extremely damaging’ after nine countries took measures to block or restrict imports from Spain.
And Spanish fruit and vegetable exporters have estimated they are losing 200 million euros a week.
More than 1,500 people have now been affected in Germany alone with cases also reported in Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Spain and Switzerland.
“Almost all cases being reported in other countries have a link to travel or residence in Germany,” said Hilda Kruse, a WHO food safety expert.
The WHO has now affirmed the outbreak is caused by a previously unknown strain of E.coli which is believed to have mutated from two bacteria, each with lethal genes.