Russia Ends Blanket Ban on EU Vegetable Imports

Posted June 28th, 2011 at 3:00 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Russia has resumed accepting vegetable imports from the Netherlands and Belgium, ending its ban on European Union exports imposed at the height of fears about contamination from a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria.

Russian consumer authorities ended the 26-day ban for the two countries on Tuesday. They are also reviewing when imports might resume from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania, Spain and Portugal.

Last week, Russia and the EU reached agreement on certification under which every shipment must be declared as safe from contamination. EU countries shipped about $850 million worth of vegetables to Russia last year.

Russia imposed the ban on June 2 when European health officials could not pinpoint the cause of the E. coli outbreak, centered mainly in Germany.

The outbreak has most recently been blamed on organic vegetable sprouts grown in northern Germany. The death toll from the bacteria has risen to 48.

In another development, Swedish health authorities say they have identified the first domestic case of a patient with the same strain of E. coli bacteria as that in Germany, even though the patient had not traveled there.

Health officials said Tuesday that the infected Swede also had no known connections with anyone who had taken ill after visiting Germany.

As a result, Swedish authorities said it might mean there is a new infected food product in circulation that they have yet to identify.

They said the patient fell ill in the middle of June, but now is reported to be feeling better.

There have been 53 previously reported cases of the E. coli infections in Sweden, all of them directly linked to the German outbreak. The World Health Organization says the outbreak has sickened about 3,800 people in 16 countries, about 850 of them seriously.

European and French officials are looking into E. coli infections spread by sprout seeds after victims in France showed the same potentially deadly strain of bacteria as the German cases.

The European Food Safety Authority is setting up a task force to investigate the link between sprouted seeds and the potentially deadly E. coli infections.