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e.coli problem under control - Dalli

The e.coli problem in Germany appears to be 'under control, EU Health Commissioner John Dalli said this morning.

He said when speaking at the European Commission Representation in Valletta that on Saturday a scientific investigation localised the problem to a bean sprouts farm on the outskirts of Hamburg.

One of the factors which helped the authorities track down the farm was the fact that three of its employees contracted e.coli. One of them was among the first cases to be reported.

The farm, he said, appeared to have been observing EU regulations and the investigation was therefore concentrating on how this bacteria was introduced to the farm.

Dalli said this had been "the worst food crisis that Europe has seen for many years."

The outbreak has caused the death of 33 people while some 800 needed hospital treatment.

This crisis, Mr Dalli said, had shown that the EU's safety and control mechanism worked, however, an analysis would now be undertaken on ways and means to improve the system.

Dalli, who last week criticised Germany for falsely blaming Spanish cucumbers, this morning appeared to be conciliatory to the Germans, saying that while one had to be careful, it was better to err on the side of caution.

Mr Dalli was in Germany last week and met health officials.

He said the compensation agreed by EU health ministers last week would be available to farmers across the EU.

Dalli said the Russian ban on imports of vegetables from the EU was disproportionate and talks were under way to resolve the issue. He said the Russian had sought safety guarantees and the EU was seeking more details on the sort of guarantees that the Russians wanted.

Mr Dalli said he had no received any complaints that Maltese farmers had been hit by any reduced demand for produce.

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