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Russia’s concerns over deadly E. coli not yet met

Preliminary test results have not detected the E. coli bacteria in the products of a farm near Hamburg. Russia has banned the import of all vegetables from EU and is not ready to lift the restriction just yet.

Authorities in Lower Saxony said on Sunday that bean sprouts sold by a local farm were the likely source of the intestinal bacteria. However, as the 23 out of 40 samples of the farm products were examined, no trace of the infection was found.

The farm remains closed and its produce has been banned from sale.

The infection has so far taken almost two dozen lives and affected more than 2,000 people in Europe and the US. The allegedly contaminated foods include mung beans, radishes, peas, lettuce and azuki beans, among others.

Previous recommendations to avoid cucumbers and tomatoes remain in place however.

As the investigation continues, Russia is not eager to lift the ban on import of European vegetables, which was imposed last Thursday.

Russia’s chief sanitary inspector Gennady Onishchenko doubted that that the outbreak was caused by the produce from a single farm. He also called for an international probe which would test Europe’s procedures for dealing with infection outbreaks for efficiency.

“The current European regulations… have been created with the economy in mind rather than protection of public health,” Onishchenko believes.

Onishchenko added that Russia would like to have its own specialist included in the international probe.

Earlier, after Russia announced the ban, the European Commission called the move disproportionate and said it goes against the World Trade Organization principles. Vladimir Putin responded, saying Russia will not have it citizens poisoned for the sake of WTO accession.

Russia and Europe are to discuss the conflict this week, according to presidential envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizhov. The meeting on the issue is expected to take place before the summit, which will start on Friday.

The E. coli outbreak, first reported in early May, has mostly affected Germany. It was caused by a new pathogenic strain of the common bacteria.

German local authorities voiced assumption that the infection spread with Spanish cucumbers. The allegation was later proved wrong, but caused enough damage to Spanish farmers’ businesses for them to seek compensation for the damages.