GERMANY was no closer overnight to discovering the source of the killer E. coli bug that has so far killed 25 people, after tests on a suspected source proved negative.

The latest confirmed victims were two elderly women from Lower Saxony who died from complications linked to the bacteria. The number of sick people has climbed to more than 2300, AFP reported.

The number of sick Americans has also risen from four to six, The Wall Street Journal said. Two were US military personnel who were based in Germany. The other four were travelling in Hamburg in May. Three developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome and were admitted to hospital while the fourth developed bloody diarrhea.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has thus far only confirmed one case of E. coli among the four Americans travellers who visited northern Germany, saying the other three cases were “suspected” infections.

Though produce in the US remains unaffected by the outbreak, Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said overnight that the federal agency was following the crisis closely.

He said in Washington that the FDA had “import alerts and mechanisms in place” to prevent suspect produce from entering the US market, according to FOX News Channel.

But he added, “We import little or no produce from Europe, so it’s not a significant problem”.

“There are a lot of people working hard to respond to this – to discover the cause, to contain it and to react to this problem – and I think we all know realistically there are no silver bullets,” Mr Taylor said.

Hopes that the source of the contamination was finally located were dashed yesterday when initial tests carried out on a farm growing a variety of organic beansprouts in the northern state of Lower Saxony proved negative, AFP reported.

Another lead in the city of Hamburg, the epicenter of the outbreak, involved beansprouts from the same farm found in the refrigerator of a sickened man. But tests on that sample also failed to find any trace of the highly-virulent strain of bacteria.

Authorities were expected to release the results from 17 more samples of seeds, water and work surfaces taken from the farm today.

The European Commission said it would ask member states to release €150 million ($US220 million) in aid to vegetable producers whose sales plummeted due to food safety fears – notably, the producers of Spanish cucumbers that were incorrectly blamed for the outbreak.

European agriculture ministers were meeting today to discuss the crisis.

 

 

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