EU agricultural ministers Monday struggled to come to terms with a deadly bacteria outbreak suspected of stemming from contaminated cucumbers that has already killed 12 in Germany.
At least 12 people have died in Germany following an outbreak of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) found on imported cucumbers.
And several hundred more are being treated in hospitals for the highly virulent strain of bacteria, which can result in full-blown haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a disease that causes bloody diarrhoea and serious liver damage and which can result in death.
Around Europe, other cases -- real or suspected -- have been reported in Denmark, Sweden, Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, France and Switzerland, all of them apparently stemming from Germany.
Dutch agriculture minister Henk Bleker said Monday he could "understand the German authorities' attitude," after they recommended that people avoid raw vegetables, especially those coming from northern Germany, where most of the deaths have been reported.
At the same time, he noted this had led to a drastic drop in demand, with Dutch vegetable exports towards Germany -- which usually amount to some 10 million euros ($14.2 million) per week -- had "virtually stopped" since Sunday.