herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Bean sprout boss baffled by deadly E.coli outbreak

The head of a German farm facing an inquiry over a deadly E.coli outbreak has said he cannot understand accusations that bean sprouts grown at his farm could be to blame.

Klaus Verbeck, managing director of the Gaertnerhof Bienenbuettel, said no fertilisers were used to produce his bean sprouts and there were no animals on his organic farm.

German officials have said his bean sprouts could be behind an E.coli outbreak that has killed 22 and made more than 2,200 people ill across Europe. The farm has been shut and produce recalled.

"I can't understand how the processes we have here and the accusations could possibly fit together," Verbeck said. "The salad sprouts are grown only from seeds and water, and they aren't fertilised at all. There aren't any animal fertilisers used in other areas on the farm either."

Neither Verbeck, himself a vegetarian, nor anyone else from the farm would talk to journalists and television crews outside his farm in the rural town of 6,600 around 70km south of Hamburg.

German officials, under intense pressure to identify the source of the outbreak, have warned consumers for weeks to avoid tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce, and at one stage said Spanish cucumbers might be the source of the outbreak. The rare E.coli strain has killed 21 Germans and one Swede.

Two uniformed security guards were patrolling behind the closed driveway gate to the farm located in idyllic countryside.

A neighbour, Sibylle Lange, said she knew Verbeck well and he had been in organic farming for many years.

"These are very serious, hardworking people who were very early producers of organic products," said Lange, a 45-year-old mother of two.

"They've been working here for some 30 years. It's a high-quality product. I've eaten all sorts of vegetables from here -- bean sprouts included -- and they taste delicious.

"I can't imagine the source could come from here. The whole thing has deeply affected us in the neighbourhood and our friends."

hnews@herald.ie

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