Well, here we go. After weeks of urgent research and testing, a culprit has finally been confirmed. German grown vegetable sprouts have been positively identified as having caused the E. coli outbreak that has by now killed at least 31 people and left thousands more seriously ill throughout Germany over the past month.
According to a report in the New York Times, German health officials have come to this decision even though laboratory tests yielded only negative results on the sprout samples tested and it still hasn’t been determined how exactly those sprouts were contaminated with E. coli bacteria in the first place. Instead of positive samples, the health officials at hand reportedly relied on an “epidemiological study of the pattern of infection among patients,” tracking back from patients to restaurants to the source at a farm in Bienenbüttel, just southeast of the outbreak’s epicenter in Hamburg. According to officials, patients who had eaten a meal containing sprouts were nine times likelier to have contracted an E. coli infection than anyone else.
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After the report was made by health officials in Berlin, another team of health officials reported back from North Rhine-Westphalia that a discarded bag of bean sprouts from the same Bienenbüttel farm had tested positively for the strain of E. coli causing the outbreak.
In short: “It was the sprouts,” said Reinhard Burger, head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control, in a definitive statement.
All of this means that fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers have now been deemed safe to eat, and health officials are speculating that – at this late stage – the infected sprouts have all been either already eaten or thrown away. Russia has already lifted its ban on importing fruits and vegetables from the European Union, and the continent is free to once more take their first hesitant steps toward a meal free of fear.