The Deadly Cucumber

Germany has had one of its worst ever outbreaks of food poisoning.  The cause was an outbreak of E. coli O104.  It was bad, 2,400 people became ill and 23 people died.

Initially it was thought that the infection came from organic cucumbers grown in Andalusia.  In response, Germany’s health ministry told consumers to avoid Spanish grown vegetables.  Experts then confirmed that cucumbers weren’t the source of the contamination and the finger of blame pointed at a potato restaurant in Lubeck.  The restaurant was given a clean bill of health and suspicion fell upon bean sprouts grown in Lower Saxony.  These have since also been shown to be innocent.

In response to all of this the Russian government has banned imports of all fresh produce from the EU.

It is still not clear where the outbreak originated from.

A handful of observations:

  • Andalusia is not the same as Spain (it is smaller)
  • Spain is not the same as the EU (it is also smaller)
  • The total cost of the event was £160 million per week and it put 70,000 jobs at risk
  • In 2001 38,525 died from lung cancer in Germany
  • A causal link between cucumbers and lung cancer has not been established

Blame without evidence results in mistrust and damage.  Not just for international events.

But then, why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

Who can you blame today?

Image by woodleywonderworks


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