Russia banned imports of raw vegetables from the European Union on Thursday because of a deadly E.coli outbreak centered in Germany, Russian media cited the head of the consumer protection agency as saying.
“A ban on the import of fresh vegetables from EU countries takes effect from this morning,” Rospotrebnadzor head Gennady Onishchenko said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Russia had already banned imports of vegetables from Germany and Spain over the outbreak, which has killed at least 16 people and made more than 1,500 others ill in eight European countries. Its source is unknown.
Onishchenko said his agency had issued an order on the ban to Russia’s customs service and also ordered raw vegetables from the EU removed from store shelves, Interfax reported. He urged Russians to be alert and to eat domestically grown vegetables
“We are imposing a ban because the situation has not been brought under control in a month. The sources of the infection and factors in its spread have not been established,” state-run RIA quoted Onishchenko as saying.
“The situation has worsened sharply in recent days, and so we are forced to take these extremely unpopular measures.”
The German disease control agency the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 365 new E.coli cases on Wednesday, a quarter of them involving a life-threatening complication of a type of E. coli known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).
EU officials said three cases had also been reported in the United States, adding that most infections reported outside Germany involved German nationals or people who had recently travelled to the country.
EU Health Commissioner John Dalli, however, said the number of new cases appeared to be in decline.
Onishchenko said the deaths caused by the outbreak “demonstrate that the much-praised European sanitary legislation, which Russia is being urged to adopt, does not work,” Interfax reported.
(Reporting by Steve Gutterman; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Jon Boyle)