E.coli outbreak: EU lifts ban on Egyptian fenugreek

Cairo: A report by a European fact-finding commission has cleared Egyptian fenugreek of accusations of being the source of an E.coli bacteria outbreak in Europe earlier this year, a senior official said today.

Fenugreek is an herb that is commonly found growing in the Mediterranean region of the world.

All tests conducted by a technical team sent by the European Union and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to Egypt last month to probe allegations on the presence of highly-toxic E. Coli bacteria in Egyptian fenugreek seed have turned up negative, said Salah Mu`awad, the chief of the Egyptian Agriculture Ministry services and follow up division.

The EU had banned the entry of Egyptian grains after suspecting a batch of Egyptian fenugreek seeds was the source of the E.coli outbreak in Spain and Germany in May.

Egypt has since been repeatedly calling for lifting the ban, saying that its fenugreek imports to Europe do not carry the E.coli microbe and promising to fully cooperate with the EU in investigating the real cause of the outbreak.

E.coli is a bacterium commonly found in the gut of humans and warm-blooded animals. Most strains are harmless but some, such as enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), can cause serious illness.

People catch E coli mostly through foodstuffs, including raw or undercooked ground meat products and milk.

Examples of foods involved in previous E. coli outbreaks include undercooked hamburgers, dried cured salami, unpasteurised fresh-pressed apple cider, yoghurt, cheese and milk.

An increasing number of outbreaks have been linked to eating fruit and vegetables (such as sprouts, lettuce, coleslaw, salad).

In these cases, contamination occurs due to contact with animal feces.

EHEC is destroyed by cooking foods thoroughly to a temperature of at least 70 degree Centigrade.


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