BERLIN — Investigators have determined that locally grown vegetable sprouts are the cause of the European E. coli outbreak that has killed 29 and sickened nearly 3,000, the head of Germany’s national disease control center said Friday.
Robert Koch Institute president Reinhard Burger said even though no tests of the sprouts from a farm in Lower Saxony had come back positive for the E. coli strain behind the outbreak, the investigation of the pattern of the outbreak had produced enough evidence to draw the conclusion.
“In this way it was possible to narrow down epidemiologically the cause of the outbreak of the illness to the consumption of sprouts,” Burger said at a joint press conference with heads of Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and Federal Office for Consumer Protection.
“It is the sprouts.”
Andreas Hensel, head of the Risk Assessment agency, said that authorities were lifting the warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.
Burger said it is possible that all tainted sprouts have now either being consumed or thrown away, but still warned that the crisis is not yet over.
“There will be new cases coming up,” he said.
Germany has been the epicenter of the outbreak, with 2,808 sickened in Germany, 722 of whom are suffering from a serious complication that can cause kidney failure. In recent days the numbers of people being reported ill have been dropping, but it was not clear whether the epidemic was waning, or people were just successfully shunning vegetables.
The World Health Organization says 97 others have fallen sick in 12 other European countries, as well as three in the United States.