E. Coli Cucumbers May Be in Austria, Hungary

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Small numbers of Spanish vegetables suspected of contamination with a potentially deadly bacteria are being recalled from stores in Austria and the Czech Republic to prevent the spread of an outbreak that has killed at least nine people and sickened hundreds across Europe, officials said Sunday.

Czech officials said 120 organic Spanish cucumbers suspected of contamination by a potentially fatal bacteria were being pulled off shelves.

Health authorities in Austria said small numbers of the cucumbers were being recalled from stores there.

The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety said it had issued an immediate recall of the cucumbers that also applies to tomatoes and eggplants. The agency said that some of the vegetables may have been sold and it is urging consumers to throw them away.

The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority said cucumbers from a contaminated shipment also went to Hungary and Luxembourg. There were no immediate reports of illness there.

The cucumbers transited Germany, where at least nine people have died and almost 300 have been sickened by hemolytic uremic syndrome. HUS is a rare complication arising from infection associated with the E. coli bacterium.

Almost a dozen people with HUS have been hospitalized in Sweden in the past two weeks after travel to Germany. In Denmark, eight people are hospitalized with E.coli infection that could be linked to the outbreak.

A spokesman for the European Union said Sunday that two greenhouses in Spain that were identified as the source of the contaminated cucumbers had ceased activies. The water and soil there are being analyzed to see whether they were the problem or the contamination occured elsewhere, said Frederic Vincent, the spokesman.

The results of the tests are exptected Tuesday or Wednesday, Vincent said.

The EU notified member states Friday of the source of the outbreak, which has affected primarily the Hamburg area of Germany and, to a lesser extent, Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Vincent said he was not aware of an EU warning having gone to other countries.

It is up to the individual member states to decide what action to take, Vincent said. The EU warned people who have recently visited Germany to consult doctors if they experience bloody diarrhea.


Oleksyn contributed from Vienna. Don Melvin in Brussels contributed.