EU in a Pickle over E.coli

In addition to the genuine health scare the E.coli epidemic has touched off bickering over responsibility.

Aryeh ben Hayim , | updated: 13:50



In addition to causing death and severe illness,  the E-coli epidemic traced to organic cucumbers has touched off bickering within the EU. The EU has always prided itself on food standards and has demonstratively closed its door to American and Chinese foods on occasion. It now confronts the embarrassment of having Russia ban EU agricultural produce.

At first the problem was traced to Spain, but now a third batch of suspect cucumbers, allegedly originating in either the Netherlands or Denmark, has aroused suspicion.

Spain is counterattacking. The Spanish Secretary of State for European Affairs, Diego Lopez Garrido, said Madrid might sue or seek administrative measures againt those who pointed fingers at Spanish agriculture.

"You can't attribute the origin of this sickness to Spain," Lopez Garrido told reporters in Brussels. "There is no proof and that's why we are going to demand accountability from those who have blamed Spain for this matter."

Spain argues that with such a long supply chain the contamination could have occurred in transit. Rosa Aguilar, the Spanish Agriculture Minister, claims that health checks in her country are more stringent than the general EU level and therefore it is time to stop blaming Spain.

Holland is also suffering. The Dutch export 1.6 billion cucumbers a year, 70% of that to Germany. Although the Dutch insist that their cucumbers are safe, the Germans don't want them, and they will probably have to be destroyed. This represents damages of millions of euros to Dutch farmers and they have already petitioned their government for assistance.