If crisis talks are any indication of an impending emergency, then the E.coli outbreak has just become one. With experts still in the dark about the origin of the outbreak, the agriculture ministers from European Union nations have decided to hold a crisis meeting.
So far the outbreak has taken 22 lives and another 2,200 people have become affected by the E.coli bacteria. The victims hail from 12 different countries across the world. Scientists say that those affected by the bacteria develop haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS) which can lead to death.
The special meeting is due to happen in Luxembourg on Tuesday. It is believed that the primary purpose of the meeting is to address the issues faced by the farmers who have suffered heavy losses ever since the outbreak was reported.
Since this is a sensitive issue, a tense meeting is anticipated. However, some officials have stressed that consumer protection will be the key topic to be discussed.
Spanish farmers have been the most affected by the crisis. It has been reported that Spain has suffered from an estimated loss of 225 million euros in the first week. The lost sales were due to reports that the contamination first originated in cucumbers from Spain.
Subsequently, neighboring countries like Germany, which first came up with the accusation, imposed ban on the imports of vegetables from Spain. As a chain reaction, Russia imposed ban on the imports of fresh produce from EU nations. What followed was a sharp decline in prices as well as sales leading to acute losses.
Like in the case of all contamination crises, the bans were imposed without even a short notice and hence the hefty losses to farmers. Farmers had argued that such big losses could have been avoided had they been informed at least a short while before bans were imposed.
Now that the German accusations turned out to be false, Spain demands full compensation from Germany for the losses suffered by its farmers.
Ironically, an organic farm in Uelzen, Germany was later alleged to have been the source of the E.coli outbreak. So far, it has not been confirmed as tests on bean sprouts from the German farm turned negative.
Although 23 of the 40 samples being examined turned negative, the results of the remaining 17 samples will be crucial. However, since the testing is a complex procedure, it will take at least 2-3 days to know the outcome of the remaining tests.