Deaths and Illnesses From E.coli Pit Spain Against the Rest of Europe

In a recent GoodFood World interview, Bill Marler, nationally recognized food safety attorney, said:

(T)here is absolutely no question that there are bugs out there today that are bigger, faster, and nastier than when you and I were kids.

There’s also the fact that our food has become much more mobile around the world. Bugs that would have been in South America are now in North America, and vice versa. We are now seeing certain shiga toxin-producing e-coli in the US that is predominantly Australian and European.

Marler’s comments from a few weeks ago could just as well apply to the huge outbreak of a virulent strain of enterohemorrhagic E. coli known as EHEC now reaching across Western Europe into Russia. More than 1,200 people have been infected and 14 have died, reported Time.

After scientists in the north German port city of Hamburg traced the bacterium to cucumbers imported from Spain, German health-safety officials have advised consumers to steer clear of raw cucumbers, salad, and tomatoes. And now the fear has spread to Russia, where authorities on Monday banned the import of all raw vegetables from Germany and Spain — and threatened to widen the ban to produce from the rest of the European Union.

Authorities in the Czech Republic, Austria and France have also taken some Spanish-grown cucumbers off shop shelves amid contamination fears.

BBC News reported that in many of the reported cases, the gastrointestinal infection has led to Hemolytic-uremic Syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney problems and is potentially fatal.

Clearly food safety is a concern around the world. In a move intended to clean up the nation’s food supply after repeated scandals, China’s supreme court has ordered judges across the country to issue harsher sentences, including the death penalty, to people convicted of food safety violations.

Will harsher penalties be effective in preventing the spread of food-borne illnesses? It waits to be seen if the threat of a death penalty is the right incentive.

Photo credit: viZZZual.com (Used with permission under Creative Commons license.)

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