HAMBURG, Germany – Initial tests have confirmed that bean sprouts grown in northern Germany are the likely cause of an E. coli outbreak that has killed at least 22 people and sickened more than 2,200, an agriculture official said Sunday.
Different kinds of sprouts from one organic farm in the greater Uelzen area, between the northern cities of Hamburg and Hannover, could be traced to infected people in five German states, Lower Saxony Agriculture Minister Gert Lindemann told reporters.
“There were more and more indications in the last few hours that put the focus on this farm,” Lindemann said in Hannover.
“Many restaurants that suffered from an E. coli outbreak had those sprouts delivered,” his spokesman, Gert Hahne, said.
The farm was shut down Sunday and all of its produce – including fresh herbs, fruits, flowers and potatoes – was recalled. At least one of the farm’s employees was also infected with the E. coli bacteria, the minister said.
Lindemann said 18 different sprout mixtures were under suspicion – including sprouts of beans, broccoli, peas, chickpeas, garlic lentils, mungo beans and radishes. The sprouts are often used in mixed salads.
Lindemann urged Germans to not eat sprouts until further notice and said definitive test results would be available today. He said authorities could not yet rule out other possible sources for the outbreak and urged Germans to continue avoiding tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce until further notice.
The head of Germany’s national disease control center raised the death toll to 22 people Sunday – 21 in Germany and one in Sweden – and said another 2,153 people in Germany have been sickened.